Analytical weekly report on results of observation: July 13-19
Observation of the presidential elections of the Republic of Belarus is carried out by activists of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee and the Human Rights Center "Viasna" in the framework of the campaign "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections".
- Elections are held in accordance with the schedule of the arrangements for the election of the President of the Republic of Belarus approved by Decree No. 17 of the Central Election Commission of 1 July 2015.
- During the week, there were documented cases of administrative prosecution of freelance journalists working with foreign media. These facts suggest a policy of continuous pressure by the authorities on independent journalists, which has a negative impact on the general background of the electoral campaign;
- By July 17, the Central Election Commission received registration documents of 14 initiative groups of citizens for their nomination as presidential candidates (Aliaksandr Lukashenka, Siarhei Kaliakin, Siarhei Haidukevich, Andrei Konavets, Tatsiana Karatkevich, Anatol Liabedzka, Mikalai Statkevich, Zhanna Ramanouskaya, Iryna Pershyna, Siarhei Zablotski, Tamara Birukova, Viktar Tsiareshchanka, Mikalai Ulakhovich, and Aliaksandr Yudayeu); on July 20, the CEC received an application of another group (Viktar Talmachou).
-On July 17 and 20 the Central Election Commission met to adopt a decision on the registration of eight initiative groups of presidential nominees (Aliaksandr Lukashenka, Siarhei Kaliakin, Siarhei Haidukevich, Tatsiana Karatkevich, Anatol Liabedzka, Zhanna Ramanouskaya, Viktar Tsiareshchanka, and Mikalai Ulakhovich);
- In 7 cases, the Central Election Commission ruled to refuse registration of initiative groups of citizens for nomination of presidential candidates. All the refusals to register initiative groups referred to the requirements of the electoral legislation;
-The grounds for refusing registration of the initiative group of political prisoner Mikalai Statkevich was a violation of the requirements of Article 60 of the Electoral Code of the Republic of Belarus – the impossibility of nomination as a presidential candidate for a person convicted and serving a sentence of imprisonment. It should be noted that the Belarusian and international human rights organizations have repeatedly called on the Belarusian authorities to release and rehabilitate (including the restoration of the right to vote) Mikalai Statkevich;
- On July 19 was the last day of nomination of representatives to territorial election commissions. Their formation is expected to be completed no later than on July 22;
- By July 17, the decisions of local authorities had identified places which are prohibited for collecting signatures by initiative groups of citizens for nomination of presidential candidates. In general, these decisions did not significantly limit the ability of members of initiative groups to campaign for the nomination of candidates in public places;
- From July 15 to 17, the Belarus delegation visited the OSCE ODIHR in Vienna, which arranged a series of meetings, including with the head of the Central Election Commission, representatives of political parties and movements, as well as representatives of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections”.
2. Registration of initiative groups to nominate candidates for President of the Republic of Belarus
In accordance with the Electoral Code and the Schedule of arrangements for the preparation and holding of elections of the President of the Republic of Belarus approved by the Central Commission of Belarus for Elections and National Referendums on 1 July 2015, decision No. 17, not later than on 17 July a person who intends to be nominated as a candidate for President of the Republic of Belarus or his representative must submit to the CEC the lists of members of the initiative group of voters for the nomination of the candidate for the President of the Republic of Belarus and an application for registration of the group. Registration of initiative groups and issuing certificates and signature sheets to members of initiative groups should be completed by the CEC within five days from the date of filing the application for registration.
The nomination of a candidate for the President of the Republic of Belarus is carried out by an initiative group of voters in an amount of not less than 100 people.
From July 14 to 17, the CEC received the documents for registration of the following initiative groups of citizens for nomination of candidates for President of the Republic of Belarus (in order of receipt):
Aliaksandr Lukashenka - current President of the Republic of Belarus;
Siarhei Kaliakin - chairman of the Belarusian Party of the Left "Fair World";
Siarhei Haidukevich - chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party of Belarus;
Andrei Konavets - director of the travel company Love Tour and transportation company Love Logistics;
Tatsiana Karatkevich - activist of the campaign "Tell the Truth";
Anatol Liabedzka - chairman of the United Civil Party;
Mikalai Statkevich - chairman of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Narodnaya Hramada), a political prisoner;
Iryna Pershyna - advertising specialist at the company Royal House Imagemaker;
Tamara Birukova - elementary school teacher;
Viktar Tsiareshchanka - scientist and public figure;
Mikalai Ulakhovich- Supreme Ataman of the NGO "Belarusian Cossacks"
Aliaksandr Yudayeu - photographer.
On July 17, a meeting of the Central Commission on Elections and Referendums was held to address the issues of registration of the initiative groups of the incumbent A. Lukashenka, chairman of the Fair World party S. Kaliakin and the leader of the LDP S. Haidukevich. The meeting was attended by Mikhail Orda, head of the initiative group for nominating Aliaksandr Lukashenka, and S. Haidukevich together with the head of his initiative group. The meeting was also attended by observers from the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, the Belaya Rus NGO, the Fair World Party and the Belarusian Party of Labor and Justice.
According to chairperson of the CEC, Lidziya Yarmoshyna, the Central Election Commission did not interview citizens on the list of members of initiative groups concerning their consent to participate in collecting signatures for potential candidates, which was expected to minimize pressure on members of initiative groups. At this stage, the task of the CEC was to check the formal grounds for the nomination of candidates for the presidency (compliance with all requirements for applicants established by the Constitution and the Electoral Code, the existence of electoral rights and the accuracy of passport data of members of initiative groups).
The Central Election Commission found that the initiative group of Siarhei Kaliakin included a stateless person, and the list of the initiative group of Siarhei Haidukevich mentioned two persons who are not eligible to vote by age, as well as a citizen of the Russian Federation. These persons have been excluded from the list of members of these initiative groups, while the groups themselves were registered. There were no claims to these violations on the part of the initiative groups of potential candidates.
Thus, on July 17 the CEC registered three initiative groups:
Aliaksandr Lukashenka, 10,577 persons;
Siarhei Kaliakin, 1,511 persons;
Siarhei Haidukevich, 2,481 persons.
Viktar Talmachou submitted documents for registration of his initiative group on July 20.
On July 20, a meeting of the Central Election Commission considered all the application for registration of initiative groups submitted in due. As a result of the meeting the CEC registered five initiative groups to nominate:
Tatsiana Karatkevich, 1,993 persons;
Anatol Liabedzka, 977 persons;
Viktar Tsiareshchanka, 946 persons
Zhanna Ramanouskaya, 111 persons;
Mikalai Ulakhovich, 1,426 persons.
Thirteen persons (1 minor and 12 double nominations) were excluded from the list of the initiative group of Tatsiana Karatkevich. One minor and several double nominations were removed from the initial list of Viktar Tsiareshchanka’s initiative group. An inspection found that the list of Mikalai Ulakhovich contained numerous double nominations. As a result, 239 people were excluded from the original number of 1,665 persons.
The CEC refused to register the initiative groups of the following nominees:
Andrei Konavets - due to absence of a 10-year permanent residence on the territory of Belarus. The CEC found that A. Konavets was convicted in Russia, served a sentence there, and was then detained on a number of occasions. As a result, it was found and documented that he was absent from the territory of Belarus between 28 October 2005 and 27 July 2007.
Mikalai Statkevich - in connection with the failure to meet the requirements established by the Constitution (absence electoral rights in connection with imprisonment). In addition, the CEC found that the application for registration of the initiative group for nomination of M. Statkevich was submitted and signed by his wife Maryna Adamovich, even though, according to the CEC, according to Part 2, Art. 61 of the Electoral Code, registration of an initiative group requires an application signed by the person being nominated as a candidate.
Iryna Pershyna - due to the insufficient amount of members on the initiative group list (less than 100 people). The list originally contained information about 101 people, but as a result a check the CEC found that the profiles of 62 people contained incomplete or inaccurate information. In addition, three persons on the list were not eligible to vote.
Siarhei Zablotski - in connection with a failure to meet the requirements contained in Article 61 of the Electoral Code (the application lacked certain required data, including copies of the passports; besides, the documents were filed by mail, etc.);
Tamara Birukova - due to the insufficient amount of members on the initiative group list (less than 100 people). The submitted list contained information about 53 people. At the meeting, T. Birukova said she could not provide the documents because of force majeure. Therefore, she later submitted a list with the required number of members of the initiative group, but the documents were received after the deadline.
Aliaksandr Yudayeu - in connection with untrue information about 12 members of the initiative group (incorrect names, dates of birth, places of residence). An inspection found that there was complete and accurate information about 94 members of the group. In his speech, A. Yudayeu asked to register the initiative group, as he said the errors were of a technical nature, and all citizens of the list were ‘real’ and ready to collect signatures.
Viktar Talmachou - in connection with the violation of the deadline for the submission of documents. The documents were filed on July 20.
All persons who submitted application for registration of their initiative groups were invited and had the opportunity to speak at the meeting. Persons, whose initiative groups were not registered, received explanations on the procedure for appealing against decisions taken by the CEC.
It should be noted that the grounds for refusal of registration of the initiative group of Mikalai Statkevich was the rule of the Electoral Code, according to which the registration of the initiative group shall be refused in case of breach of the requirements of the Electoral Code (Article 61); candidates for President of the Republic of Belarus may not be nominated in case they are citizens who have no rights under the laws of the Republic of Belarus to hold positions in government and other state institutions in connection with an ongoing conviction (Article 60). However, one of the priority recommendations of the OSCE ODIHR mission, which were formulated on the basis of observing the parliamentary elections of 2012, was lifting the legislative restriction on the right to vote or run as a candidate for citizens who are in prison or in pretrial detention, regardless of the severity of the crime. In addition, any person sentenced to imprisonment may at any time be pardoned, which includes the expungement of a conviction, which, in turn, removes barriers to participation in elections.
3. The organization of the election process. Decisions by the executive committees on the definition of places prohibited for collecting signatures, formation of the TECs, informing citizens about the campaign through the media
In accordance with the schedule of the arrangements for the election of the President of the Republic of Belarus approved by Decision No. 17 of the Central Commission of 1 July 2015, local executive and administrative authorities no later than on July 17 were expected to determine the places prohibited for picketing in order to collect signatures of voters’ for the nomination of candidates for President of the Republic of Belarus.
In general, it should be noted that the decisions of the local executive authorities to determine the places forbidden to collect signatures for nominating presidential candidates are not significantly different from those of the previous presidential election.
In some regions, including in the city of Minsk, there was some deterioration of conditions. In particular, in accordance with decision No. 1842 of the Minsk city executive committee of 9 July 2015, forbidden campaigning places included the Railway Station Square and Yakub Kolas Square. Meanwhile, these locations were not on the list of prohibited venues in a similar decision of the Minsk city executive committee back in 2010. It is also forbidden to picket at the State Flag Square.
The district executive committee of Salihorsk banned in its decision, in addition to the traditional places prohibited for collecting signatures, campaigning near the monuments of architecture, history, culture and military graves.
In some cities, the authorities’ decisions increased the distance from government buildings where collecting signatures is outlawed. For example, in Svietlahorsk pickets cannot be staged closer than 200 meters from the executive committee, police department and prosecutor’s office.
At the same time, in Barysaŭ the distance to such buildings was reduced to 20-50 meters.
Observers reported an increase in places for collecting signatures in some cities (Babrujsk, Navapolack, Hrodna, Brest, Mahilioŭ).
Relatively liberal decisions were adopted by the district executive committees of the Mahilioŭ region executive committees, but as of July 18, five websites of the executive committees (out of 21 districts in the region) did not report on the list of places prohibited for collecting signatures (Bialyničy, Bychaŭ, Horki, Mscislaŭ and Škloŭ districts).
In general, the decisions of the executive committees did not significantly limit the possibility of collecting signatures by initiative groups in public places, but many restrictions were not dictated by considerations of protecting the safety, morals and public order, but arbitrarily restricted the rights of participants in the electoral process. In addition, local authorities have shown the lack of a common approach to determining the rights of participants in the electoral process, some have tried to improve this situation, some – worsened it or left unchanged.
The official websites of the local executive authorities and the print media founded by local executive committees mainly published the required nformation about the election campaign.
However, this information did not always meet the requirements of the CEC’s decision No. 22 of 1 July 2015 “On informing the citizens about the work on the preparation and holding of elections of the President of the Republic of Belarus in 2015”:
the website of the Minsk regional executive committee had no information about the time and place of reception of documents for the nomination of representatives to territorial election commissions. A report on the joint meeting of the Presidium of the Regional Council of Deputies and the Regional Executive Committee that formed local territorial commissions was published only on July 20. The same information was not available at the websites of all the district executive committees of Minsk region, except for the website of the executive committee of Minsk district. A report on the joint meeting of the Presidium of the Minsk City Council of Deputies and the City Executive Committee that formed local territorial commissions was published only on July 20.
On July 19, electoral authorities completed the nomination of representatives to territorial election commissions. 63 representatives of opposition parties were nominated to the territorial commissions: BPF - 11, “Fair World" – 39, the Belarusian Social Democratic Party - 3, UCP - 10. Such a low number of representatives of political parties can be explained by the fact that, in accordance with Electoral Code, the right to nominate their representatives to territorial commissions is only enjoyed by the governing bodies of regional, Minsk city, district, city (in regional cities), city district organizational structures of political parties. Meanwhile, since 2003, the opposition parties have been deprived of registration of the majority of their local branches in the regions.
4. Election observation
Fifty long-term observers of the campaign "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections" joined the election observation.
The intention to monitor the election was announced by a coalition of political parties and movements “Right to Choose 2015”. The coalition includes the BPF, the BCD, the campaign "Tell the Truth!" the Movement "For Freedom", the Belarusian Social Democratic Party, the Party of the Greens, the organizing committee of the Party of Freedom and Progress, the trade union of radio-electronic industry (REP). It should be noted that some of the political actors involved in the campaign support the nomination of presidential candidate Tatsiana Karatkevich.
At a meeting of the Council of Permanent Plenipotentiary Representatives of the Commonwealth of Independent States held on July 14, Chairman of the Executive Committee and CIS Executive Secretary Sergey Lebedev was appointed head of the CIS observation mission at the presidential elections in Belarus.
On July 15, an OSCE/ODIHR assessment team arrived in Minsk. On July 17, representatives of the campaign "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections" Aleh Hulak and Uladzimir Labkovich met with the assessment mission representatives - Mr. Vladimir Misev, OSCE/ODIHR Election Adviser, and Ms. Tatyana Bogussevich, OSCE/ODIHR Senior Election Adviser.