Updated at 11:56,07-12-2016

ODIHR has Not Received Electoral Code Amendments for Review

The Belarusian authorities have not presented draft amendments to the Electoral Code to the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) for review despite an appropriate agreement reached this past February, Jens Eschenbaecher, spokesman for the institution, told BelaPAN.

The House of Representatives on Monday voted unanimously to give first reading approval to the amendments, which are said to take into account "90 percent" of the OSCE’s recommendations for electoral reform.

The spokesman stressed that ODIHR "could still review the amendments provided that sufficient time is given to prepare the comments and in turn for the comments to be meaningfully considered by Parliament."

"In general, we encourage a broad and inclusive dialogue in Belarus on electoral reforms involving a wide array of election stakeholders in order to build a large agreement over the necessary reform and to build confidence," Mr. Eschenbaecher said.

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.

Lidziya Yarmoshyna, head of the central election commission, 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.