Updated at 17:11,20-07-2018

The Elections to Local Councils were Not Free, Fair and Transparent


Statement of the Presidium of the Political Council of the United Democratic Forces of Belarus

The elections to local councils were not free, fair and transparent.

April 25, 2010 another political show organised by the current government and called the elections to local Councils of Deputies took place.

The campaign proved that the Belarusian authorities did nothing to ensure that the elections were free, fair and transparent. In fact they ignored the proposals and efforts of the democratic forces of Belarus and of the international community aimed at creating conditions for holding the local elections in accordance with generally recognised international standards.

At all stages of preparation and holding of elections, the authorities allowed only cosmetic innovations that changed practically nothing.

As before, the Electoral Code was violated as the majority of the electoral commission were formed mainly of representatives of the same enterprise and headed by people for whom members of the commissions were subordinates. At the same time, representatives of the opposition democratic parties and NGOs had little possibility to become members of election commissions. Thus, having staffed divisional election commissions only to 56.8 percent of the maximum amount permitted by law, local authorities refused to include almost 90 percent of representatives nominated by opposition political parties. All in all, only 194 of 85,120 members of election commissions were representative of the democratic forces (0.2 percent).

Nomination of candidates to the majority of the Councils from political parties was still limited by the requirement that parties should have registered regional branches.

Administrative pressure on pro-democracy activists by heads of enterprises, organisations, educational institutions, officers of local executive committees, law enforcement agencies, tax, financial and control services in order to prevent their participation in the campaign was even higher than in the recent elections to the House of Representatives of the National Assembly in 2008. As a result, on the voting day less than five hundred people could remain candidates, although initially 2,500 members of opposition parties and public associations expressed the desire to be nominated as candidates.

The law has not provided better opportunities for candidates for holding their election campaigns. In fact, local authorities once again allotted a very limited number of mostly deserted places for campaigning. The existing system of five-minute radio addresses of candidates to voters is a complete profanation of the idea of giving candidates another chance to fight for votes.

Belarusian citizens, frustrated by the existing electoral system, showed very little activity on the election day. In anticipation of this fact and in an attempt to ensure the desired result, the authorities forced people to vote early. As a result, according to official data, 29.3 percent of voters voted early, which is much more than during the local elections of 2007. Besides, such an instrument as voting at home without presence of observers was widely used. At many precincts more than a third of all voters allegedly voted at home.

The electoral legislation and practice left intact the problems concerning non-transparent vote counting and determining the election results. In these circumstances, public observers and even members of election commissions served only as a democratic decoration, while the election results were determined by chairpersons of commissions in accordance with instructions received from above. Attempts of observers to claim respect of their rights ended usually in their violent removal from the polling stations.
According to the final data of district commissions, there are only 10 representatives of the democratic opposition (less than 0.05 percent) out of 21,288 deputies of the twenty-sixth convocation.

In view of the above said, the Presidium of the Political Council of the United Democratic Forces:

notes that the elections have not been free, fair and transparent; the announced results do not reflect the will of voters; the formed local councils cannot be considered legally elected bodies of local authorities.

The last election campaign proved that the institution of elections in Belarus is in total crisis. In the vast majority of constituencies there was only one candidate. In general, elections are not viewed by the public as a tool to change the situation in the country. As a result, the actual turnout, according to independent observers, was significantly lower than the officially declared 79.5 percent, and in Minsk, regional centres and other large towns less than 50 percent of voters went to the polls;

states that a way out of the situation is possible only in case of deep democratisation of all spheres of social and political relations in the country, significant changes in law and practice of organising elections. This is especially urgent on the eve of the presidential election campaign.

May 5, 2010