Report оf the Campaign “For Fair elections 2010“
оf the Campaign “For Fair elections 2010" on the poll-watching of the presidential election campaign in the Republic of Belarus, 2010.
The campaign “For Fair Elections” has monitored the electoral campaign for the presidential elections in Belarus 2010 and states that the held elections were not free and fair.
There is still no real progress on the way to international democratic standards of free, equal and fair elections, but just a public imitation of this process meant for the foreign, primarily European, audience.
Amendments and additions made to the Election Code in January 2010 did not allow to create the basis for genuine democratic elections, first and foremost, because of the absent or very limited basic conditions for it in the country, including freedom to receive and impart information, freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, equality before the law, etc.
This explains the liberal behaviour of the executive authorities and of the Central Commission for Elections and National Referendums (further referred to as the Central Commission) with regards to some minor elements of the campaign, which may not have a significant impact on the election results, as, for example, no visible obstacles to organizing the collection of signatures at pickets, registration of the majority of candidates, regardless of whether they have collected the required signatures or not, relative freedom of street agitation, provision of live broadcast to the candidates, etc.
At the same time there are no positive moves with regard to the key procedures of the election campaign having a decisive influence on the outcome of elections. This would be, first and foremost, an open, transparent and public procedure of vote counting and determination of election results at polling stations, as well as guarantee of preventing any manipulations of the ballots of early voters, which is impossible without supervision for their safety.
Election monitoring held by members of the campaign "For Fair Elections" revealed violations of the current electoral legislation in almost all stages of the campaign.
Registration of initiative groups.
Registration of the initiative groups went with violation of the Article 61 of the Electoral Code which stipulates that the lists of initiative groups shall be submitted to the Central Commission by the person intending to announce his candidacy for the President of the Republic of Belarus, provided the person presents his passport of a citizen of the Republic of Belarus and the Central Committee makes copies of the necessary passport pages and certifies them.
Documents required for the registration of the initiative group of A. Lukashenko, have been handed over to the Central Commission by Alexander Radkov, the Minister of Education, the head of the initiative group.
The Campaign “For Fair Elections” has two answers from the Central Commission on their appeal with regard to this issue.
The reply from 06.10.2010 under the № 01-12 / K-372 says: "We find it necessary to note that, on the subject of the presence of a person intending to announce his candidacy for an elective office, when they apply for registration of an initiative group, the Central Commission, in its law enforcement practice, has always followed the rule about possibility of submitting these documents both by the person or by his representative".
In the reply to the second appeal letter on the issue of illegal registration of Lukashenko’s initiative group, dated 19.10.2010, the Central Commission informs that "the decree of the Central Commission disputed by you .... has a concrete individual character, is addressed to a particular individual and denotes who has subjective rights and legal responsibilities in this situation. "
The Central Commission moved away from collective consideration of these appeals, despite the fact that, in accordance with the Part 3 of the Article 49 of the Election Code, the appeals against commission decisions shall considered at the commission meeting.
Formation of territorial and precinct election commissions.
The process of forming territorial and precinct electoral commissions, as before, was closed to the public. The criteria to be met by potential commission members, as well as procedure of considering their candidacies, are not specified by the Election Code nor by the Central Commission. The presidiums of the Councils of Deputies and executive committees, district administrations, decide at their discretion, which nominees should be included in the election commissions.
The results of the formation of territorial election commissions prove that no positive moves have been made towards the democracy. Most representatives from the opposition parties and public associations were in a discriminatory manner refused to become commission members. According to the information received from the Central Commission, the territorial commissions included 93% of the nominated representatives from the pro-government parties and public associations, and only 20% of the representatives from the opposition parties.
Violation of the Election Code was also recognized in cases when representatives of the opposition political parties which had nominated their candidates to the regional commissions were not invited to the meetings of bodies responsible for forming commissions.
24 complaints were sent to the courts against the local authorities decisions related to formation of regional committees, none of them was upheld.
1073 candidates have been nominated to the precinct commissions by opposition parties and movements, only 183 people were included in the commissions, which makes 17%. At the same time, 93% of the nominees from the pro-government parties and public associations were included in the election commissions.
85 complaints were submitted to the courts with regard to the executive committees decisions on forming election commissions, their illegal and invalid actions of not including 413 people in the election commissions. None of these complaints was upheld. Courts considered the decision-making process in accordance with the regulations of the meetings of the bodies forming the commission, the term of decision-making, compliance with the requirements of Article 34 of the Election Code on the formation of one-third of the commissions of the representatives of political parties and public associations and not including judges, prosecutors, heads of local executive and administrative bodies.
However, the complaints were not related to the procedure of forming commissions, but concerned a discriminatory approach to the representatives of opposition political parties and public associations. The Central district court of Minsk, in its decision from 06.11.2010 on a complaint from the Minsk city organization of BSDP against the actions of Minsk’s Central district administration on formation of election commissions, stated that "the assessment of a motive on including or not including of certain representatives of the parties and public associations in election commissions is outside the jurisdiction of the court".
The Court of the Soviet District of the city of Minsk in its decision from 11.9.2010 on a complaint from the Soviet district organisation of the Belarusian Left Party "Fair World" against the decision of Minsk’s Soviet district administration on formation of precinct election commissions for the president elections of the Republic of Belarus, said: "The criteria for selecting nominees to the precinct election commissions are not subject to judicial scrutiny. In accordance with the electoral legislation, the authority responsible for the forming an election commission for the presidential elections in the Republic of Belarus has the right to determine independently commission members.
Therefore, the arguments of the applicants related to their experience in the previous election campaigns and their knowledge of election laws cannot be taken into account".
At the same time the majority of the precinct election commissions included employees working in the same company, with a director or a deputy director being the head of the commission. Beside that, a place of work of commission members was hidden from the public, as due to the Article 35 of the Election Code one group of workers may nominate only one representative to the local commission.
A member of the Soviet district precinct commission № 67 Turko T.I. addressed the head of commission Polonevich E.V. with a verbal request to provide information regarding the place of work of the commission members, but was refused. The reply to a written statement on this issue contained the answer that the precinct commission possessed no information about the main place of work of the precinct commission members, with the exception of those nominated by the school № 76.
In fact Polonevich E.V. being the director of the school № 76, was the head of the Soviet district precinct commission № 67. 12 commission members out of 14 were employees of the school № 76, one member was the leading expert of the Soviet district administration and Turko T.I. was a representative of the party of "Fair World".
Doubtful was also the fact that a teacher of physics from the mentioned school was a member of Agrarian Party of Belarus, director of the school - a member of the Republican Party, a teacher of Russian language and literature - a member of the Republican Party of Labor and Justice, a primary school teacher - a member of the Belarusian Social-Sports Party.
Turko T.I. filed a complaint to the Minsk city commission due to the fact that she had not been invited for the commission meeting and was refused an opportunity to be on duty at the polling station, which is actually a prohibition to work as a member of the commission.
A precinct commission of the polling station # 20 of the Moskovskiy district in the city of Minsk has been formed in a similar way. The commission includes 12 people, 11 out of 12 work in the same working place - the educational institution "Belarusian State Pedagogical University named after M. Tank," and the 12th member is an employee of Moskovskiy district administration.
Among 9 members of precinct commission from the polling station № 19 in Moskovskiy district 8 people work the educational institution "Belarusian State Pedagogical University named after M. Tank".
Employees from the same working place make the absolute majority in the precincts commissions in Novopolotsk at the polling station № 12, and in Pervomaisky district in Vitebsk at the polling stations № № 41,49.
Proposals to improve the electoral process.
The national coordinators of the campaign "For Fair Election 2010" S. Kalyakin, V.Kornienko and presidential candidates H. Kostusev, A. Mikhalevich, V. Nyaklyaeu, V. Rymashevsky and J. Romanchuk initiated submitting for consideration of the Central commission six draft decrees, aiming to create favourable conditions for transparent, free and fair elections. At the same time, these proposals would aim to create barriers to the falsification of the people's will.
Draft decrees have included:
• formation of precinct election commissions mostly from the representatives of political parties;
• possibility for all presidential candidates to participate in meetings with voters at the same time, regardless of who organizes these meetings;
• more detailed clarification about the use of public media (no adjustments or refuse to publish election programs);
• assuring the possibility of the observers to stay at such distance from the place of the vote counting, which would allow them to see the content of the ballots;
• clarification of the vote counting procedure allowing the delegated member of a precinct commission to count aloud the ballots, showing each ballot to the other commission members and observers;
• protecting the ballot from fakes by clarifying the provisions of the Article 72 of the Election Code on the right of any member of the commission to sign all ballots sent to the CEC.
The Central Commission reviewed the proposals on 05.11.2010 and, as a result, rejected all of them, as the adopted decrees on giving a possibility to an observer to exercise supervision in conditions ensuring visibility of the counting procedures do not mean that the observer will be able to see the content of the ballot. It should be mentioned also that the lack of clearly stated procedures for counting ballots by the members of precinct commissions does not let to observe fully the votes counting.
On 30.11.2010 The Central Commission considered another proposal from the coordinators of the campaign "For Fair Elections" S. Kalyakin, V. Kornienko and presidential candidates H. Kostusev, AA Mikhalevich, V. Neklyaeva, V. Rymashevsky, J. Romanchuk, A. Sannikov. N. Statkevich, which referred to excluding the possibility of spoofing and other manipulation with ballots of the voters from early voting.
The current practice of holding the elections in Belarus shows that during the early voting period at the end of the time of the vote and before the opening of the polling station the next day, the room with the early voting ballot box is guarded only by one employee of the Interior. Neither the members of the electoral commission, nor the observers are able to watch over the preservation of ballots from early voting at this time.
This practice is combined with the administrative coercion of voters to go for early voting, and it creates conditions for various kinds of manipulations with ballots of the citizens voted.
It was proposed to give observers the right to exercise a 24 hours supervision of the conditions of securing the ballot box.
Having considered this proposal the Central Commission amended the Guidelines "Organizational and legal issues related to the work of precinct election commissions during the presidential elections of the Republic of Belarus in 2010”, thereby recognizing the existing problems with the storage of ballots of citizens who voted early.
However, these changes have just cosmetic character: it is offered to keep an early voting ballot box in a sealed vault at night, and to seal a slot in the box during the break in early voting from 14 to 16 hours.
While considering this issue at the meeting of the Central Commission, the coordinator of the Campaign “For Fair Elections" S. Kalyakin made a proposal to cancel the decree № 99 “Draft scenario of training for the members of precinct election commissions” approved by the Central Commission on November 5, 2010, as contrary to several provisions in the Election Code, including limitation of the rights of members of precinct election commissions and the list of the functions of police officers which not mentioned in the electoral law. However, this proposal was rejected by the Central Commission.
Representatives of the executive and administrative authorities in the precinct commissions, using the "Draft scenario of training for members of precinct election commissions", approved by the decree of the Central Commission № 99 dated 05.11.2010, held a training on neutralizing the independent observers by observers from the pro-government public associations and labor groups. The pro-government observers were assigned to draw the acts on the absence of violation of the Election Code and the order of votes counting, in case the independent observers or commission members from the opposition parties will notify violations or give dissenting opinions.
According to the observer B. Svyatskaya, this was a general course of the training conducted for the heads of Moskovskiy district precinct commissions in the city of Minsk by Alexander Kudermaev, the deputy head of the Moskovskiy district election commission, the chairman of department in charge of organizational and personnel related issued under Moskovskiy district administration. Chairmen of election commissions were offered to choose observers for each polling station at the amount of not less than 10 people, to assign a foreman, who will attend a training class held by a representative from the Academy of Management of the President of the Republic of Belarus on the subject of opposing to the independent observers and reporters.
A striking example of this activity is the "Observer’s Memo" on the website Niasvizh executive committee. The memo instructs "its" observers "to draw acts of violations conducted by the observers from the opposing forces," if necessary to put the question of removing the observer from the opposing forces", to state the possibility to survey the procedure of counting ballots from a 3 meters distance, etc. Memo also contains 15 questions and answers for "dialogue with the opposing observers”.
Abuse of government resource
Central Election Comission (CEC) passed a decree as of September 15, 2010 #47 “On elucidation and application of Article 61 of Electoral Code of the Republic of Belarus, stipulating the procedure of signature-gathering process in support of persons, nominating as candidates for the President of Republic of Belarus in 2010.” Point 6 of the given decree explicitly clarifies that the information in the signature sheets may be filled out by the voter him/herself as well as by another person upon his/her request, or by the member of initiative group. Thus, CEC by their decree allowed persons, non-members of initiative group, to fill out signature sheets.
N. Lozovyk, secretary of Central Election Commission commented for “European radio for Belrus” that signature sheets may also be signed by assistant of the member of initiative group.
Given elucidations have given ground for mass usage of administrative resource in signature-gathering campaign in support of A. Lukashenko. Coordinators of campaign “For Fair Election” addressed CEC per fact of signature- gathering in support of A. Lukashenko, carried out by non-members of initiative group, also per fact of forcing employees of state institutions to gather signatures.
On October, 27, 2010 Central Election Commission provided an answer to “For Fair Election” campaign coordinator’s (S. Kaliakin’s) appeal according to the fact of publication of the schedule of participation of employees of educational establishments of Lenin rayon city of Minsk in pickets on signature-gathering for A. Lukashenko. The schedule was devised on behalf of head of department of ideological and educational work of Administration of Education of Lenin rayon, A. Noskova. In her interview to “Euroradio” A. Noskova confirmed her authorship and the fact that the schedule was devised upon instruction from A.Lukashenko’s electoral headquarters.
Central Election Commission had only found abuse of power by A. Noskova in the given fact and addressed head of administration in Lenin rayon city of Minsk with a request to examine the issue of institution of administrative proceedings against A. Noskova. CEC had not discovered any violations on Lukashenko initiative group’s part.
CEC also received an appeal from Central Committee of Belarusian left-wing party “Fair World” (Spevedliviy Mir) on oral and written reports by citizens about violations of Electoral Code in the electoral signature-gathering campaign by A. Lukashenko initiative group.
Thus, A.P. Kolchin had reported about signature-gathering in support of A. Lukashenko in Mogilev on October, 6, 2010 by non-members of initiative group.
Voter Krasnov N.A eye- witnessed signature-gathering for Lukashenko by non-members of initiative group on pickets near shopping center “GUM” and Furniture house on V. Horuzhei Street in Minsk. Afterwards, members of initiative group G.P. Atamanov and A.A. Khmil arrived to picket palce and signed signature sheets collected by other persons. To prove this fact N. Krasnov provided a video recording to CEC.
On October, 4 and 5, 2010, voter Shchiriakovaya L.F. had recorded facts of signature-gathering for A. Lukashenko among students of Belorussian university of transport of Gomel by pro-rector (vice-chancellor) on educational work of the given university G. Chayanovaya, which contradicts to Chapter 8 Article 61 of Electoral Code ( Participation of organization’s administration in signature-gathering campaign is prohibited.)
Similar violations were executed by the deputy of kindergarten “Raduga” in Ivatsevichi town who had participated in signature-gathering for Lukashenko among subordinate employees of the kindergarten during working hours. Voter Khodonovich S.N reported the fact.
Central Election Commission had not detected any violations of election legislation when inspecting these facts. Appeal by N. Krasnov was directed for consideration to Minsk city commission which is unauthoritative to take measures, laid out in Electoral Code, in respect to initiative groups.
Pre-election period was marked by certain innovations: live broadcasting of presidential candidates on television and radio; holding of live televised and radio debates; campaign funds set up for candidates to pay for airtime and print media space in mass media; production of print campaign materials.
Candidates’ speeches on television and radio were to end before December, 5, 2010. However, on December 6-7, 2010 an all -Belarusian People’s Gathering was held, broadcasting presidential candidate A. Lukashenko live for several hours; he was delivering his election campaign. Other presidential candidates were not allowed to take part in the gathering which is a violation of Article 74 of Electoral Code.
During the period before December, 19, 2010 all state-run mass media placed purposeful criticism of other presidential candidates and exceptionally positive coverage of A. Lukashenko’s activity and his program.
On December, 9, 2010 Central Election Commission considered the appeal lodged by party “Fair World”
(Spravedliviy Mir) on the fact of broadcasting the conference of A.Lukashenko with his trustees in the news programme on ONT channel on November, 29.
The meeting took place in the building of Administration of President of Belarus during working hours. Among the trustees- chairpersons of oblast executive committees and Minsk city executive committee, subordinate to the incumbent President, which is a violation of Article 73 of Electoral Code “On equal rights and responsibilities of presidential candidates in Belarus.” In the given case, abuse of position of power to influence the election had place.
However, Central Election Commission had not noticed any violations of Electoral Code in this incidence.
On December, 9, Central Election Commission took into consideration the request by presidential candidates V. Nekliayev and A. Sannikov about provision of additional free airtime to speak on television. Requests by candidates were not satisfied “on the lack of grounds”. Thus, all candidates, expect A. Lukashenko, were deprived of an opportunity to use state-run mass media during two weeks prior to election.
Overall, there were many incidents when campaigning materials of democratic candidates were taken off or sealed up. So did observers Nasanovich L.V. from Soligorsk and Risevets A.A. from Druzhniy village of Minsk oblast reported incidents about campaigning posters of presidential candidates Y. Romanchuk, A.Sannikov and V. Nekliayev being removed.
Coverage of Presidential Election of 2010 in Belarusian mass media
Main distinctive feature of election process coverage in state-run mass media includes: focusing attention on one candidate- incumbent president, marginalization of opposition candidates and their activity, striving after an effect in support of on one candidate.
Results of public opinion polls were being constantly outlined, very often without reference to executive agents. Offered findings created an effect of predefined election result.
In commercial newspapers, in contrast to state-owned, incidents of offensive attitude towards candidates or extremely positive representation of one of them were not registered.
Candidates had the right to print their election programs in state-owned newspapers on a free basis. While equality in conditions was to be observed (equal space provided), newspapers “SB” and “Republic” (Respublika) published A. Lukashenko’s election program in the first column of Saturday’s issue (November27, 2010) with a color photo, given newspapers started publishing programs of other candidates only starting November, 30, 2010 and in the 4th column (“SB”), 6th column- “Respublika”. Meanwhile, photos of the majority of candidates were black and white.
After candidates delivered their speeches on tv and radio state-run mass media launched a campaign to discredit them. Different opinions of voters are virtually missing from state-run mass media; election process is covered one-sidedly discrediting alternative candidates and representing incumbent president in an extremely positive way.
During December 14-19, 2010 “For Fair Election 2010” campaign continuously observed the presidential election early voting at 250 polling stations. Observation took place in 43 locations, including the Republic’s capital – Minsk, all oblast centers, big cities, rayon centers, and villages.
According to the Central Commission, 23,1% of voters voted early in Belarus. According to “For Fair Election 2010” campaign observers, 20,5% of voters voted at 247 polling stations.
In terms of oblast breakdown, it looks like that:
% of voters that voted early, according to:
Brest oblast: The Central Commission - 18,8; Observers - 22,4; Discrepancy - 3,6;
Vitebsk oblast: The Central Commission – 34,6; Observers - 24,49; Discrepancy - 9,7;
Homel oblast: The Central Commission – 24,1; Observers - 21,9; Discrepancy - 2,2;
Hrodno oblast: The Central Commission – 23,1; Observers - 16,5; Discrepancy - 6,6;
Minsk oblast: The Central Commission – 20,4; Observers - 20,3; Discrepancy - 0,1;
Mohilev oblast: The Central Commission – 26,4; Observers - 18,1; Discrepancy - 8,3;
Minsk city: The Central Commission – 17,7; Observers - 19,4; Discrepancy - 1,7;
The largest discrepancies were found in the Vitebsk and Mohilev oblasts, where data from the Central Commission showed the highest percentage of early voters.
Overall, discrepancies in the number of people who voted were found at 86 polling stations (34,8%). The largest discrepancies were found at polling station #3 of the Central rayon of Minsk (the Central Commission stated 300 people, and observers counted 169), at polling station #36 in Baranovichi (526 vs.412), and at polling station #19 in Homel (619 vs. 465).
High voter turnout was due to wide scale compulsion to vote early. Orders were given by directors of enterprises, organizations, and educational institutions who received instructions from the government. On December 15, 2010 at a meeting about the presidential campaign and public security Lukashenko said: “If for some reason it is necessary that people vote early . . .we will have to ask people.”
Observers of the campaign “For Fair Elections 2010” recorded incidences of compulsion to vote early at 14 polling stations. First of all, students, military personnel, police and employees of governmental offices and state enterprises were forced to vote early. According to the observer A. Kubarev, on December 15, 2010, a teacher brought students from the Tanka Pedagogical University to polling station #19 at the Leninsky rayon of Minsk and marked names of those who voted in her list.
A dean of the Department of Engineering and Economy at the State University of Informatics and Radio Electronics told students to vote early in order to avoid complications during the exams. She also announced that classes would be canceled on December 17 and 18, students had to vote early and go home.
On December 15, 2010 a group of students came with their teacher for an early vote at polling station #82 at Moskovsky rayon of Minsk.
Polling station #93 in Mohilev was located in the dorms of the enterprise “Babushkina krynka.” A superintendent of dorms knocked at each door and checked who voted early. Heads of departments at the Mohilev “Khimvolokno” met with workers and recommended they vote early, because they obtained information that the opposition was planning terroristic acts at polling stations on election day.
Members of the polling station commission #99 in Mohilev separately recorded the names of those living in a dorm on 77A Dimitrova Prospekt, then sent the names to the dorm superintendent who knocked on the residents’ doors and demanded they vote early.
Observers from polling station # 41 of the Zheleznodorozny rayon of Homel noted that students of the Homel Medical University who lived in the dorm at 2 Bogdanova Str. were also forced to vote. Students were upset that they were forced to vote early and demanded an official confirmation that they voted from the polling station commission. As a result, 423 out 603 students (70 %) who lived in the dorm voted early.
Video about compulsory early voting in Minsk State Technologic College is located on a website of the Belarusian United Democratic forces (www.udf.by). Students of the Belarusian National Technical University informed the campaign “For Fair Elections 2010” about compulsory early voting.
Many polling stations were not properly equipped to ensure the safety of early voters’ ballots. For example, at polling station #9 of the Pervomaisky rayon of Minsk, a seal on an early vote ballots box allowed the adding of ballots. Similar violations were recorded at polling station #12 in Svetlogorsk, #4, 43, 44 of Leninsky rayon of Minsk, #42 in Vitebsk, #7 in Novopolotsk, #8 in Slutsky rayon, #2 in Myadel’ and others.
According to an observer N. Goriachko, a box for early vote was sealed but the seal wasn’t attached properly. An opening for ballots in a box located at polling station #4 in Krichev was glued by a glue stick that was easy to unglue without leaving any traces.
During the early vote period, apprehension expressed earlier about the biased attitude of heads of commissions to observers was confirmed. It became evident especially after Lukashenko’s address to heads of commissions on December 16, 2010. He stressed his negative attitude to a mission of observers and warned heads of commissions to not allow anyone to photograph, seal, sign or assign. As a result, observers of the campaign “For Fair Election 2010” lost accreditations without legal basis at 9 polling stations.
An observer Vladimir Anfilov lost accreditation and was sent away from polling station #22 at the Tsentralny rayon of Homel, because he took a picture of an early voting ballot box and polling station.
According to a decision of the polling station #17 commission of the Leninsky rayon of Bobruisk, an observer Aleksandr Smirnov was sent away because he allegedly created a nervous atmosphere and wrote unsubstantiated complaints. He wrote two complaints. One was about inappropriate interference by an unauthorized person, a director of Bobruisk school #61, in the work of a commission made up of teachers. Another complaint pointed out that a commission’s head didn’t ensure the safety of an early voting ballot box. Observers Valentina Glukhova and Nina Fediaeva were sent away for similar reasons.
Vladimir Novikov, an observer of the campaign “For Fair Election 2010” and a representative of the candidate Dmitriy Uss were sent away from polling station #152 of Mohilev only because he wanted to talk to the head of a commission.
Absurd accusations were used to send observers away. For example, an observer Tatyana Masalkova was sent away from polling station #33 by V. I. Feschenko, a head of another commission, because she chewed a gum.
In violation of legal rights, observers of the campaign “For Fair Elections 2010” didn’t have an opportunity to adequately observe early voting.
According to part 4 of article 13 of the Electoral Code of the Republic of Belarus, an observer has a right to be present during early voting, which, according to article 53 of the Code includes not only the procedure of filling and putting ballots into a box by voters that takes place from 10 to 2 pm and from 4 to 7 pm, but also other procedures that take place outside the time frame mentioned above. In particular, according to part 4 of article 53 of the Code, early voting includes the procedure of securing a ballot box which is ensured by the head of the polling station’s commission.
Part 5 of article 13 of the Electoral Code contains an exhaustive list of what an observer doesn’t have the right to do. This list doesn’t forbid maintaining 24-hour observation of a box with ballots of voters who voted early. This was not forbidden by the resolution of the Central commission #150 dated November 30, 2010 which considered propositions of coordinators of the campaign “For Fair Elections 2010” and presidential candidates G. Kostusev, A. Mikhalevich, V. Nekliaev, Ya. Romanchuk, V. Rymasheusky, A. Sannikov, and N. Statkevich to grant to observers during early voting, the right to observe conditions of keeping a ballot box at the same premises where the staff from the Ministry of Interiors was on duty.
Based on the above mentioned provisions, on December 14, 2010, observers of the campaign “For Fair Elections 2010” addressed heads of 250 polling station commissions across the Republic requesting they give them an opportunity to execute their legal rights. However, except at polling stations #108 in Hrodno and #36 in Baranovichi they were not allowed 24-hour observation. On December 15, 2010 observers of the polling station #36 in Baranovichi were denied an opportunity that was given them earlier.
A reply to a complaint of coordinators of the campaign “for Fair Elections 2010” submitted to the Central commission on the morning of December 16, 2010 was not received.
A serious and systematic violation that creates a real danger for wide scale falsification of results of elections is the fact that almost everywhere heads of the station commissions in violation of part 4 article 53 of the Electoral Code that appoint them to oversee an early voting ballot box, delegated staff from the Ministry of Interiors to do their duties.
In many cases, this violation was a result of ignorance on behalf of heads of commissions about the requirements of electoral legislation, including their main duties. This is proved by responses of heads of commissions from the polling stations #23 of Brest, #3 of the Zeleznodorozhny rayon of Vitebsk, and #40 of Pervomaisky rayon of Vitebsk. They told observers that the Ministry of interiors or its staff is responsible for ensuring the safety of ballots and ballot boxes.
Therefore, boxes with ballots of citizens that voted early at 221 out of 250 polling stations that were observed by “For Fair Election 2010” daily from 2 to 4 pm and from 7 pm to 10 am of the next day were at the disposal of people not authorized by the law of the Republic of Belarus.
A reply to a corresponding complaint of coordinators of the campaign “for Fair Elections 2010” submitted to the Central commission in the morning of December 16, 2010 was not received.
Observers established facts that could testify to substitution of ballot boxes’ contents.
An observer A.N. Prokopenko informed that an early voting ballot box at polling station #15 in Polotsk had clear signs of being opened numerous times. In particular, impression of a seal made during sealing off the ballot box on the first day of the early voting didn’t correspond to the one that was found during examination on December 18, 2010.
An observer E. N. Shelest recorded that unauthorized people entered a premise of polling station #97 where an early voting ballot box was kept after the end of work by the commission. When asked what the people did at the polling station and why the door to the premises where a ballot box was kept was opened, police major on duty Gritsuk refused comment.
Similarly, an unauthorized person entered polling station #6 of the Partizan rayon of Minsk after the end of commission’s work and locked himself along with a police officer on the premises where an early voting ballot box was located.
An observer N. B. Demidov established that an early voting ballot box was reopened and sealed off for the second time, because on December 19, 2010, the seal was placed in another spot than in other days of early voting.
Facts mentioned above make us doubt that ballots that are inside of early voting boxes reflect true expression of the will of voters. Ballots of citizens who voted early have to be recognized as invalid and not counted at the final count of election results.
On December 19, 2010 observers identified that electoral commissions seriously violated article 54 of the Electoral Code that regulates procedures for conducting mobile voting.
Observers identified that members of the station commissions at 34 polling stations received a number of ballots that exceeded the number of requests for mobile voting from voters. Also, members of the commission visited not just the apartments and houses of citizens that were on the list for mobile voting, but others and proposed to vote for those who had not done so already.
There was no list for those wishing to use mobile voting at polling station #26 in Slonim. However, two groups of commission members left the station to conduct mobile voting and each group obtained 100 ballots.
At polling station #44 of the Tsentralny rayon of Minsk, members of station commission obtained 100 ballots more than the number of voters included on the list for mobile voting. Similar incidents took place at polling station #4 of the Sovetsky rayon in Minsk and #66 in Hrodno.
According to observers, at polling station #114 of Hrodno a list for mobile voting was compiled not according voters’ requests, but according to a mobile voting list from previous elections.
In a number of cases during mobile voting, commission members didn’t respect the private will of citizens, they put pressure on voters. Therefore, station commissions did not allow observers to be present during mobile voting. For example, an observer Nikita Kozlov was not allowed to observe mobile voting at polling station #47 in Vitebsk, because allegedly there was no space for him in the car.
At all polling stations observed by the campaign “For Fair Elections 2010”, observers proposed to heads of commissions an open vote count. During an open count, a member of the commission, appointed via voting, reads out loud the candidate’s name for whom the voter had voted; every ballot is shown to all members of commissions, observers, and placed in a stash near the card with the candidate’s name. However, this proposal wasn’t accepted at any polling stations.
As a result, as in previous elections, a procedure of vote count was not transparent not only for observers, but for members of commissions. According to observers, at many polling stations, heads of commissions distributed all ballots taken from boxes between members of commissions, asking each member to count his part independently. Each commission member informed a head of commission about the results of the count in writing, without publicly announcing it. The final vote count was announced only by a head of commission. Such practice was identified at polling station #310 in Brest, #53 in Hrodno, and #9 in Polotsk.
Violating the law to count votes of early voters separately from mobile voters and those who voted on election day, many commissions deliberately mixed ballots from different boxes in one pile and then counted them all together. This offers grounds to assume that such actions were used to cover manipulations with ballots located in boxes for early and mobile voting. Observers identified such violations in Hrodno at polling stations #99, 108, 118, in Homel at polling stations # 7, 16, 17, 47, in Vitebsk at polling stations # 34, 37, 40,41, and in Zhodino at station #3 as well as in other stations where votes were not counted separately.
Moreover, at polling stations where votes were counted separately, results were not announced by heads of commissions, in violation of part 2 article 55 of the Electoral Code. These incidents took place at polling stations #31 and #45 in Brest, #49 in Homel.
At some polling stations observers were sent away at the beginning of the vote counting procedure. A head of polling commission #38 in Borisov, Valentin Shkarubo sent away all observers from his polling station. Observers were sent away at polling stations #3 and #12 in Vitebsk, #99 in Hrodno.
In many places observers identified significant overstating of the number of people who voted. From six polling stations in Homel the number of those who voted according to protocols of the commissions exceeded the number recorded by observers by 2 334 people, including polling station #17 by 170 people, #18 by 368 people, #19 by 638 people, #44 by 412 people, #47 by 412 people, and #49 by 334 people.
The Presidential Elections of 2010 which took place on December 19 have shown that there is no real progress in the country in bringing closer electoral practice to the international democratic standards of conducting free and fare elections. In lieu of that there was observed liberalization of some electoral procedures not affecting election results designed for a foreign, first of all European, spectator.
The introduced in January 2010 into the Electoral Code changes and additions did not allow to create a base for conducting free and fare elections in compliance with the core procedures of electoral process which influence overall election results.
Violations of electoral legislations were registered during all stages of election process.
The Central Election Commission of Belarus in violation of Electoral Code have illegally registered initiative signature collection group in support of A. G. Lukashenko.
In violation of article 73 of Electoral Code presidential candidate A. Lukashenko using the advantages of his official status have been conducting election campaign engaging officials who are directly subordinate to him, illegally used state mass media and state resources.
As before, representatives of the majority of opposition political parties and civic organizations were not included in territorial and precinct election commissions.
None of the complains about illegal and unjustified not inclusion of 430 representatives of democratic organization was complied by courts.
At the same time in violation of article 25 of Election Code the majority of the precinct commissions have been formed from representatives of one work collective while a head or a deputy head of a collective was the chair of the commission.
The CEC did not accept the suggestions from coordinators of campaign “For Fair Election 2010” and other presidential candidates to create conditions favorable for conducting free and fare elections and excluding opportunities to falsify peoples will.
During the period of early elections there were multiple cases of enforced voting orchestrated by heads and managers of enterprises and organizations and teachers of higher educational establishments.
Legal rights of “For Fair Elections 2010” observers were violated and they were deprived of opportunity to conduct full-fledged observation of early elections. During early voting observers’ rights were not observed and the was no guarantee in place to ensure safeguard of ballots of people who have voted during early stage. Extensively chairs of precinct commissions in violations of part 4 of article 53 of Election Code have charged officers of bodies of internal affairs to safeguard boxes for early voting.
At many of the polling stations in violation of the requirements of Election Code there was no separate vote count for every candidate in the boxes for early elections, mobile voting, and voting on election day.
Extensively precinct election commissions have denied observers to follow transparent vote count procedure. The vote count procedure have everywhere been of covered character. Observers were not given opportunity to observe content of ballots.
CEC, territorial and precinct commissions either only formally replied many of the complaints submitted by representatives of political parties and civic organizations not addressing the essence of the raised issues or did not answer at all.
Thus, in connection with major violations of Election Code of Belarus and other election legislative acts which took place during preparation and conducting of elections on January 19 2010, the Elections of President of Belarus can not be recognized as free and fare.
National coordinators of
“For Fair elections 2010”