Updated at 16:11,02-12-2016

Lower Chamber Gives First Reading to Electoral Code Amendments

The House of Representatives on Monday voted unanimously to give first reading approval to a bill of amendments to the country’s Electoral Code.

All 104 members of the lower chamber who attended the session voted to approve the legislation, which is said to take into account "90 percent" of the OSCE’s recommendations for electoral reform.
Under the bill, representatives of political parties and non-governmental organizations are to account for at least one-third of the members of precinct and district election commissions. Representatives of local executive committees would be barred from election commissions, while the share of civil servants in their lineups would be limited to one-third.

Organizations that seek representation on precinct and district election commissions would be allowed to send their representatives to meetings held by local authorities to discuss the establishment of the commissions. They also would have the right to appeal decisions resulting from such meetings to court.
The candidate nomination and registration procedures would be simplified and political parties would be allowed to nominate candidates in electoral districts where they have no registered chapters.

Nomination groups would no longer be required to have ballot-access signatures verified by local executive committees. In addition, the draft legislation would reduce the number of grounds for declaring ballot-access signatures invalid.

Despite being limited to designated venues, candidates would not be required to obtain authorities’ permission for holding campaign events. Joint campaigning also would be allowed.

Precinct election commissions would be required to issue a report on the number of voters casting their ballots after each day of early voting.

The amendments would abolish the voter turnout requirement for local elections.

Candidates would be allowed to set up funds to finance their campaigns during presidential and parliamentary elections. The amount of such funds would be limited to 1000 times the Base Rate for parliamentary candidates and 3,000 times the Base Rate for presidential candidates.

While speaking at the session, Lidziya Yarmoshyna, head of the central election commission, noted that the bill "will contribute to the improvement of Belarusian regulations." "The main amendments deal with, above all, stronger public control, easier election nomination and participation rules for candidates and parties, as well as an increase in workload for election commissions," the official said.

Ms. Yarmoshyna expressed certainty that the amendments would strengthen public trust in elections.
The official said last week that the provision that would allow election monitors to observe ballot counts from a distance that would enable them to clearly see the process had been removed from the bill.
Political analysts viewed the provision as one of the few crucial changes proposed by the commission.