Past week of the electoral campaign: events and generalizations
Past week of the electoral campaign: events and generalizations
The main event this week was registration of candidates to the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus. According to the Central electoral commission, 276 candidates out of 365 were registered. 76 of the registered ones represent the united democratic forces.
Election observers had been given no opportunity to observe how the constituency commissions checked the signatures for registration of candidacies, which had been passed to them by the initiative groups. ‘The observers are not authorized for it’ is a usual answer of the electoral commissions this week.
The pro-governmental candidates continued ‘working with the electorate’: early agitation in mass media and meetings at institutions and enterprises.
Candidates are registered, but not everyone agrees to the results of the registration stage
According to the CEC, 276 candidates were registered, 84 were denied registration, 5 refused to continue struggling for a deputy seat (all in all, there were 365 pretenders). 76 out of 98 representatives of the united democratic forces were registered as candidates.
92 of the registered candidates represent political parties. The electoral commissions registered 26 out of 29 representatives of the United Civil Party, 16 out of 21 representatives of the Belarusian Popular Front Party, 13 out of 18 representatives of the Party of Communists Belarusian, 13 out of 17 representatives of the Communist Party of Belarus, 11 out of 14 representatives of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada), 8 out of 9 representatives of the Liberal Democratic Party, 3 out of 5 representatives of the Party of Labor and Justice, 1 representative of the Agrarian Party and 1 representative of the Patriotic Party. Among the registered candidates there are also 38 deputies of the present Chamber of Representatives (3rd convocation).
The CEC mentions presentation of invalid signatures and inaccurate information in the tax and assets declarations as the main reasons for registration denials.
Not all of those who weren’t registered agreed with it. As of 29 August, the CEC received appeals from nine persons. This number is supposed to increase in the nearest days.
On 29 August the chairperson of the Central electoral commission Lidziya Yarmoshyna informed journalists that the elections can be non-alternative in seven constituencies. However, it differs from the list of the registered candidates at the CEC website. According to this document, there are twelve constituencies having one candidate each: Ivatsevichy constituency #11, Pinsk village constituency #15, Navapolatsk constituency #25, Rahachou constituency #45, Vaukavysk constituency #48, Masty constituency #56, Navahrudak constituency #57, Smarhon constituency #59, Shchuchyn constituency #60, Barysau village constituency #63, Maladechna village constituency #71 and Niasvizh constituency #72. The leader in this respect is Hrodna oblast: five of the mentioned constituencies are situated on its territory.
It’s quite interesting why the number stated by Yarmoshyna differs from the information at the web-site. May be the CEC is going to register some of those who it had refused to register at first?
‘Interesting’ methods of work at constituency electoral commissions
Members of constituency electoral commissions demonstrated quite interesting methods of work while checking the citizens’ signatures in support of registration of candidacies. Without turning an eyelash they phoned to those who signed for democratic and independent candidates and asked them to ‘revoke’ the signatures by writing a statement that the signatures were invalid. Such cases were registered in Baranavichy, Barysau, Minsk, etc.
In electoral constituency #99 in Minsk electors were called to revoke signatures for Yury Karetnikau. Commission members even proposed to come to the people’s apartments in order to take from them statements about annulment of the signatures. Some of the electors must have surrendered to such persuasions, as Karetnikau was denied registration because of problems with signatures.
A member of the BPF Party Siarhei Salash, also has doubts about fidelity of member of constituency electoral commission #63. He was not registered because of a large number of ‘forged’ signatures. He demanded that the commission familiarized him with all materials concerning the check-up of the signatures and presented to him the complete list of names and surnames of the citizens whose names and surnames had been found forged and the list of names and surnames of those who had composed statements for revoking their signatures. He also insists on being given the surnames of the members of the electoral commission who collected such statements. In 2003, when Mr. Salash was running for Barysau city soviet of deputies, a part of the signatures were also declared ‘forged’. However, the next day he managed to present the electors’ statements that they had signed for him and did not refuse from their signatures. This situation can repeat this year.
Authenticity of signatures checked in absence of observers
The authenticity of signatures all over the country was checked in absence of observers. At their sittings the commissions informed observers only about the results of such ‘check-ups’, but the procedure itself was closed, giving reasons for doubts in trustworthiness of the presented information.
In particular, in Mahiliou observers Alexander Karalei and Zmitser Salauyou applied to district electoral commission #85 for permission to attend the check-up of the signatures’ authenticity. A day later they received an answer that observers have the right to attend only sittings of electoral commissions. Thus, the observers were not given any chance to monitor the check-up of the signatures. The head of the electoral commission Klemiankova stated that the check-up of signatures was performed by ‘working groups’ not at a sitting, that’s why the observers had no right to participate in this procedure.
An observer of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee Mikalai Chyzhykau was not allowed to monitor this procedure either. Piatro Dubouski, the head of the electoral commission of Baranavichy village constituency #7, wrote that ‘your presence during the check-up of signatures in the signature lists is not provided’. Mr. Dubouski referred to Article 13 of the Electoral Code, which he seems not to have understood well enough: ‘The preparation to and holding of elections are to be performed openly and publicly. The appropriate commissions inform citizens about their work on preparation and holding of the elections.’ From the legal point of view, any collegial measures of a commission (including the work on checking of the authenticity of signatures) can be considered as sitting, and the first chapter of Article 13 ‘the observer has the right’ guarantees to observers the right to attend sittings of the appropriate commissions.
‘Observers are not authorized…’
These words were often heard by observers during the past week. They could not receive information about different aspects of the electoral process.
A letter of the CEC head Lidziya Yarmoshyna to a human rights activist Pavel Levinau eloquently demonstrates the understanding of the principles of publicity and openness by the Central electoral commission. The human rights activist received the following answer to his complaint concerning the refusal of Maryna Zdolnikava, the secretary of the electoral commission of Vitsebsk village constituency #21, to present information (surnames, names and patronymic names) of the persons who had presented to the commission documents necessary for their registration as candidates: ‘Observers are not authorized to familiarize with information about the persons who present to commissions the documents that are necessary for registration as candidates to the Chamber of Representatives’. What information can they receive at all, if even the names of those who intend to run at the elections remain a secret?
In Vitsebsk the sittings of the electoral commissions of Vitsebsk-Horki constituency #17 and Vitsebsk-Chkalauskaya constituency #18 were to have taken place at 10 a.m. on 28 August. All interested persons were informed about the date and place of the sittings in advance. However, at the last moment they were transferred to an earlier time, 9 a.m., without explanation of the reasons. Members of the commissions ‘forgot’ to inform observers about this, whereas the ideologist of Pershamaiski district executive committee of Vitsebsk Mikalai Shliupakou and the deputy-head of Pershamaiski district executive committee Uladzimir Tsiarentsyeu were informed.
Provocations and pressurization as public and political background of the campaign
Pretender for candidate at Barysau village constituency #63, member of the BPF Party Siarhei Salach was accused of ‘defamation’ (Article 9.2 of the Administrative Code of the Republic of Belarus) of the head of Barysau district executive committee Valiantsina Shutko and the librarian of secondary school #11 Tatsiana Stasava: he allegedly called them ‘falsifiers of the elections’.
On Alexander Chyhir’s registration as a candidate at Babruisk village constituency #80 his wife was required to present an income and assets declaration to the Department of financial investigations of the State Control Committee.
The question of administrative punishment of former police captain, candidate at Vitsebsk-Chyhunachny electoral constituency #19 Andrei Levinau, is being considered. Bear in mind, he was charged with infliction of light bodily injuries to a fellow policeman. The procuracy has conducted a check-up on this fact, but has not brought a criminal case so far. However, should the candidate be sentenced to administrative arrest, he can have to conduct agitation in jail.
Pressurization was also exercised on members of the initiative groups of oppositional pretenders for candidates. On 26 August KGB officers demanded from a resident of Salihorsk Yana Paliakova explanations concerning her participation in the initiative group of Volha Kazulina.
The precinct commissions will not be expanded, but the staff of some of them has to be reviewed
The CEC head Lidziya Yarmoshyna stated that the CEC was not going to add new members to precinct electoral commissions (the head of the presidential administration had received such a proposal from the untied democratic forces because a minimal number of UDF representatives had been included in these commissions).
However, the staff of some precinct commissions needs to be reviewed. In particular, the procuracy of Kapyl district found that some of these commissions in the district had been formed with violations of the legal requirements. ‘We had requested and checked up the appropriate documents that served as a reason for nomination of candidates to precinct commissions, on each of the facts that you (observer Viktar Dashkevich) mentioned,’ wrote in his answer the procurator of Kapyl district Uladzimir Paliashchuk. ‘Eight members were nominated to the electoral commissions were nominated by the working collectives which they were not members of.’
The number of such check-ups could be much greater if the information about the composition, the way of nomination and the places of work of members of commissions were not concealed almost as top state secrets. Most state mass media published only the surnames of members of precinct commissions. Sometimes it was quite hard to get the newspaper issues where information about the staff of electoral commissions was published: some of them were distributed only by subscription at this very time and some were not sold. Some city and district executive committees published separate brochures with information about members of electoral commissions, but these could not be obtained anywhere at all.
The organs which formed the commissions, consider it illegal to present to observers information about nomination of representatives to electoral commissions. In the official answer received by observer Sviatlana Rudkouskaya Leninski district executive committee clearly stated that the documents that he had requested contained personal data of nominees and therefore state organs had no right to present them for familiarization. A similar answer was received from Hrodna Kastrychnitski district executive committee by observer Raman Yurhel. In the latter answer it was also specified that according to paragraph 69 of Article 11 of the working regulations of Kastrychnitski DEC of 29 December 2007 such documents were ‘presented for familiarization to workers of the apparatus and structural subdivisions of the executive committee’. It is quite interesting what ‘personal data’ of nominees to electoral commissions are presented in the documents concerning the formation of electoral commissions and why their spread is incompatible with the openness of the electoral process?
‘Work with electorate’ increases
The wide-scale early agitation of pro-governmental pretenders continued during the past week. (By now they have already been registered as candidates and can agitate legally). Such facts were registered in Hrodna, Smarhon, Babruisk and other settlements.
In particular, two weeks before the official registration, a deputy of the present Chamber of Representatives Tatsiana Holubeva started ‘meetings with the electorate’ at the enterprises belonging to her constituency to ‘report about her activities as a deputy’. At these meetings she told the electors about the new laws which had been adopted with her participation and what he could do for Smarhon should she be elected again. In addition, in August Tatsiana Holubeva twice appealed on the local cable TV.
Using his office powers, the head of the main department of staff policy of the presidential administration Uladzimir Siniakou organized reception of citizens in Maladechna and Valozhyn districts. Large articles with his photos and description of his activities were published in the local press: Molodechenskaya Gazeta for 13 and 23 August 2008 and Rabochaya Slava for 15 August 2008. The article in Molodechenskaya Gazeta was written by its chief editor A.Khazianin and in the article in the issue of 23 August the citizens of Maladechna district are directly called ‘Maladechna electorate’.
State media continued PR of pro-governmental protégés
Such cases were registered all over the country. Let’s draw some examples.
On 21 August the newspaper Zarya, founded by Brest oblast executive committee and Brest oblast soviet of deputies, again published an article about Uladzimir Maisiuk, a deputy who intends to run for a deputy seat again at Baranavichy village electoral constituency #7. In the article Uladzimir Maisiuk’s roads journalist Alena Yurkevich wrote that four years ago 75% of dwellers of Baranavichy and Liakhavichy districts voted for the director general of Brestautador (Brest automobile roads, state enterprise) Maisiuk and that he delivered the goods as a deputy.
The same fashion can be observed in the newspaper of Vitsebsk city executive committee Vitsbichy. Its issue for 21 August contained an article about the head of Vitsebsk city soviet of deputies Henadz Hrytskevich, who runs at Vitsebsk-Horki electoral constituency #17. The article includes a photo of him and his electoral promises. ‘One needs courage when it is necessary to present and defend somebody’s interests. In our case it is the electors’ interests. Believe me, it is not easy. We will work and seek the achievement of our common goals.’
Human rights activists for free elections