Updated at 22:06,23-05-2018

OSCE, Belarusian organisations not recognize elections

Nasha Niva

Belarusian human rights activists give elections two points out of five

Viasna Human Rights Centre recorded multiple violations during the Parliamentary elections in Belarus, which took place on September 23rd and were considered valid by the Central Election Commission.

According to Deputy Head of Viasna Valiancin Stefanovich, Belarus "is one the verge of reaching the Soviet elections standards." "I would give them two out of five points,"
he concluded in an interview with Telegraf.

According to Viasna, during the current elections 78 per cent observers could not monitor the counting of the votes despite the authorities promising so. Thus, the suggestion to facilitate the transparent counting of the votes was declined.

Besides, the human rights activists have claims against the CEC with regard to the voter turnout. As for the voting during the second day of the elections the difference between the data of the CEC and that of the observers is 18.8 per cent, as for the early voting the difference is 10.4 per cent.

Valiancin Stefanovich did not see any changes in the early voting either.

“i]"There is nothing new compared to the previous elections: the same group of the voters were forced to vote. Students were brought to vote by the curators of the groups, military officers voted, as well as the residents of the hostels," informed Deputy Head of Viasna.

Belarusian Helsinki Committee: same as in 2008

Chairman of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee Alieh Gulak considers that the current elections were run the same way as the elections of 2008 with the serious violations of the OSCE standards and the Belarusian Law.

In particular, he marked the spirit of the political situation, punitive measures of the administration towards its opponents, limitation during formation of the elections commissions, violations of the election campaigns rules, non-transparency of the counting of the votes.

“i]"What was witnessed by the independent observers does not allow us to believe that the official figures are based on the ballots of the vote”
," said Alieh Gulak.

Despite some improvements as compared to 2008 Belarus still does not have enough tools for just elections, as stated the head of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee.

Thus, according to him, the country does not have tools to guarantee the violations appeals, no criteria for including people into the elections commissions, which allows to manipulate the process. The registration of the initiative groups and candidates did not arouse huge censure, but the verification of the signatures was not transparent, which does not rule out manipulations. Administrative resource was actively used in favor of certain candidates.

OSCE issues preliminary report

Competition was limited and many OSCE commitments on citizens' democratic rights to associate, to stand as candidates and to express themselves freely were not respected in the September 18-23 parliamentary elections in Belarus, OSCE observers say in a preliminary report issued on September 24, BelaPAN says.

The elections were not administered in an impartial manner and the complaints and appeals process did not guarantee effective remedy.

"This election was not competitive from the start," says Matteo Mecacci, the head of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's short-term observation mission.

"A free election depends on people being free to speak, organize and run for office, and we didn't see that in this campaign. We stand ready to work with Belarus to take the steps forward that are in our common interest."

"The lack of neutrality and impartiality on the part of election commissions severely undermines public confidence in the process," says Antonio Milososki, the head of the long-term observation mission of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

"Citizens should feel confident that their votes are counted as cast, but the lack of proper counting procedures or ways for observers to verify the results raises serious concerns."

While there was an increase in the number of candidates put forward by parties, prominent political figures who might have played a role remained in prison or were not eligible to register because of their criminal record, the observers says. Arbitrary administrative decisions also constrained the field of contestants, limiting voters' choices, the report says.

Despite improvements made to the Electoral Code in 2010 and 2011, Belarus' regulations do not adequately guarantee the conduct of elections in line with OSCE commitments and international standards, the observers say.

On a positive note, political parties could, for the first time, nominate contenders in constituencies where they had no regional office, which increased the number of political party nominations, the report says. Nonetheless, the overly technical application of the Electoral Code resulted in the exclusion of one in four nominees.

According to the report, the election campaign was barely visible throughout the four-week period.

"Although the Constitution guarantees freedom of expression and there is a high number of media outlets, coverage of the campaign did not provide a wide range of views," the observers say.

"Candidates who called for an election boycott had their free access to media coverage denied or censored. Media coverage focused on the President and government, with minimal attention given to candidates."

The observers note that while early voting and main voting day procedures were assessed positively, the process deteriorated considerably during the vote count.

"A significant number of observers were not given a meaningful opportunity to observe the count and evaluated the process negatively in a significant number of the polling stations observed," the report says.

"The continued lack of properly delineated counting procedures meant that an honest count could not be guaranteed."