Electoral system of Belarus requires urgent reanimation
Elections to the local councils did not meet a number of key international standards for democratic and free elections, coordinators of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections” said at a press conference on February 19 in Minsk.
One of the two coordinators, a representative of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" Uladzimir Labkovich, summed up the key stages of the electoral process, noting that in spite of the absence of significant violations and obstacles at the stages of registration of nomination groups, collecting signatures and election campaigning, other stages of the election campaign, primarily early voting, counting of the votes by the PECs, were accompanied by numerous manipulations, active use of administrative resources and lack of pluralism.
Aleh Hulak, chairman of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, elaborated on the analysis of the nomination of candidates in a variety of ways, noting that the election commission often refused to register party nominees referring to minor errors in their declarations. Representatives of non-governmental organizations were most often accused of errors in their signature sheets and allegedly invalid signatures. Most of these practices were used against nominees from the Movement "For Freedom": 41.4% of its nominees were denied registration. The situation is similar with the "Tell the Truth" campaign, who lost 39.1% of their nominees.
The signature verification procedure was not transparent. 85% of the campaign’s observers were denied the right to be present during the verification of signatures, as noted in the final report on the election monitoring.
Aleh Hulak also noted that compared to the 2014 the nomination groups were significantly more active during the campaigning stage, although, they were almost invisible in society. He also stressed an increase in the proportion of candidates who chose to set up their election funds. The number has increased by over 6%, from 3.8% in 2014 to 10% in 2018.
According to the observers, the counting of votes and early voting continue to be marred by widespread violations. The observers noted numerous cases of fraud in arranging home voting, when the voters were visited by election officials, despite the fact that they had not requested this type of voting. “There were electoral districts where what we saw looked like an epidemic, as the number of home voters exceeded the amount of those who came to the polls,” the coordinators said.
On Election Day, there were cases of groundless removal of pro-democratic observers from the polling stations, including the campaign’s monitors.
The human rights defenders say they are worried by the use of new rigging techniques — multiple voting by groups of people at different polling stations.
Based on this, the observers says that the elections to local councils can be called one of the worst and extremely dirty votes of all time.
“The campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections” regrets to state,” sums up Uladzimir Labkovich, “that the elections to local councils of deputies of the 28th convocation did not meet any international standards and cannot be viewed as free, democratic and transparent. We also state the further degradation of the electoral system of the Republic of Belarus. We sadly note the reluctance of the authorities to implement the recommendations to improve the electoral legislation, both by national and international observers, primarily ODIHR. In the situation that has developed in Belarus, the next two elections, which will take place very soon on a national scale — parliamentary and presidential — are simply impossible to be held. Our electoral system requires urgent reanimation, because it has become an evil in all its essence.”