Updated at 16:11,02-12-2016

OSCE observers meet with rights defenders monitoring elections

Representatives of the election observation mission of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) held a meeting with activists of a campaign called Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections in Minsk on August 31.

The activists informed the international observers about their effort to monitor this month’s parliamentary elections and their interim conclusions. They exchanged opinions on the conduct of the election campaign, according to the Belarusian Helsinki Committee.

Speaking to reporters last week, Valyantsin Stefanovich of Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections said that the verification of ballot-access signatures by district election commissions continued to be a non-transparent procedure.

"Since observers were not able to attend the checking of signatures, we cannot say whether verification processes were impartial and complied with the Electoral Code," Mr. Stefanovich said.

Earlier, human rights defenders criticized the authorities for including mostly officials and representatives of pro-government associations and parties in precinct election commissions, which have the function of counting votes.

In an interview published by the government-controlled newspaper Sovetskaya Belorussiya on August 22, Lidziya Yarmoshyna, head of the central election commission, described the democracy cultivated by the OSCE/ODIHR as a "terrible thing that is impossible to counter."

"All their democracy is well-organized bureaucracy with some game being played with the public and the media," Ms. Yarmoshyna said. "It will destroy anyone it meets on its way with the help of its cohesion."

According to her, standards applied by the ODIHR to Western countries and post-Soviet countries are radically different. "A mission of 15 people goes to Germany, where 80 million people live, and there are 700 observers for Belarus where nine million live. You understand that the objectives of these observation missions are different," she said.

On the same day, Antonio Milososki, head of the OSCE/ODIHR mission, described the mission as balanced and impartial.

He said that the OSCE observers would monitor the entire election process, including the candidate registration stage, media coverage, the early voting period, the vote-counting process and the settlement of possible disputes.

The mission is to have 36 long-term observers from 19 countries. In addition, 270 short-term observers are to monitor the voting process and ballot counting on the main voting day, September 23.