1. Compared to the 2006 election, the campaign was characterized by a number of positive novelties: live broadcast of candidates’ presentations on TV and radio; candidates’ debates on TV and radio (also live broadcast); and an opportunity for the candidates to establish election funds to attract additional financing for their campaigns. The candidates also had a freer environment to meet with the electorate and disseminate their agitation materials than in 2006.
2. These novelties and positive changes, however, did little to decrease the inequality in campaign conditions between the incumbent president and other candidates. As in 2006, Alyaksandr Lukashenka benefitted from the following:
• short period of campaigning allowed by the electoral legislation;
• unlimited opportunities for Lukashenka to avail of the state mass media – compared to 2 hours of TV and radio appearances and an opportunity to print 5 pages of text in the main newspapers guaranteed to the other candidates;
• targeted criticism of the other candidates in the state mass media – compared to an exclusively complimentary coverage of the incumbent president’s personality and his election programme;
• lack of opportunities for all candidates except for Lukashenka to avail of the state mass media during the two-week period before election day;
• limited maximum amount of financial resources, which a candidate is allowed to disburse for campaigning purposes (about $60,000); this sum is obviously insufficient for arranging an election campaign which scale can be compared with the scale of campaign in support of the incumbent president;
• difficulties for the other candidates with production of agitation materials (refusals of printing establishments to print them, or delays with their printing and shipment) and their dissemination;
• difficulties for the other candidates in holding meetings with voters (such as refusals to provide premises) – compared to compulsory participation of students, workers and civil servants in the meetings with authorized representatives of Lukashenka and numerous ‘mobile information brigades’ comprised of local authorities and CEOs of state enterprises and institutions.
I. DURATION OF THE CAMPAIGN
The presidential candidates were provided with one month for campaigning – from 18 November (day of registration of the candidates) till 18 December inclusive.
Such a relatively short duration for the official campaign is not by itself a substantive limitation of the opportunity to campaign. However, in a situation of limited access to the state media for all candidates except for the incumbent president, and limitations related to financing of campaigning (see below), a month for the campaign is obviously insufficient for the voters to receive necessary information about candidates and their programmes.
Appearances of the candidates on the state TV and radio, including their participation in TV and radio debates, completed on 5 December. As a result, during 13 days before the election day all candidates except for Lukashenka were deprived of access to the state TV and radio. This puts them on an unequal footing with the incumbent president.
It is worth noting that the last 5 days of campaigning (14–18 December) concur with the days of early voting. The campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections” believes that the opportunity to campaign during the voting period is an obvious deficiency of the electoral legislation. During this 5-day period the incumbent President has considerably broader opportunities for direct and indirect campaigning than the other candidates. This also applies to the opportunities for him to urge voters to participate in early voting which was accompanied by mass falsifications during the 2008 parliamentary and 2006 presidential elections.
II. CAMPAIGN FINANCE
According to the Electoral Code, each candidate is entitled to 2,300 basic units (≈ $26,000) from the state budget for production of printed campaign materials. Observers of the “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections” campaign did not note any considerable obstacles for the candidates in availing these funds. However, the election teams of almost all candidates reported on difficulties with production of campaign materials, such as refusals of printing establishments to print them or delays with their printing and shipment. At the same time the CEC Chair Lidziya Yarmoshyna said that the candidates “do not collect the produced materials from the warehouses for weeks”.
In addition, according to the Article 48 of the Electoral Code with amendments of 4 January 2010, candidates can establish their electoral funds for attracting additional financing for campaigning. As a result, unlike the election of 2006, political parties, other public associations and citizens have the right to transfer money to electoral funds of the candidates. The latter can also make personal contributions to the electoral funds.
Money accumulated in the electoral funds can be disbursed for buying broadcast time on TV and radio, and advertising in print mass media; renting premises, buildings and equipment; covering transport, communication and consultancy expenses; printing campaign materials; procuring expendables, etc. Total disbursements from an electoral fund should not exceed 3,000 basic units (≈ $34,000).
According to CEC, 9 candidates (all except for Dzmitry Uss) opened bank accounts of their electoral funds. As of 7 December, donations were made to the accounts of 7 candidates, and 3 candidates partially disbursed received funds:
So far, the opportunity to establish electoral funds scarcely contributed to an increase of financial resources which the candidates avail for campaigning purposes. However, even the maximum total amount of financial resources, which a candidate is allowed to disburse for campaigning purposes (≈ $60,000) is obviously insufficient for arranging an election campaign on a scale comparable with the scale of campaign in support of the incumbent president.
III. CAMPAIGN IN BROADCAST MEDIA
Each candidate was entitled to one hour on the First National TV Channel (two appearances of half an hour each), and one hour (two appearances of half an hour each) on the First National Channel of the Belarusian Radio. Appearances were scheduled for the period of 22 November – 3 December, for working days: from 6:10 till 7:10 on radio, and from 19:00 till 20:00 on TV. According to a CEC decision, appearances were broadcast live. It is a positive development compared to the election of 2006 when candidates’ presentations on TV and radio were first recorded and then broadcast, and were censored.
On 9 December, the CEC considered requests of the candidates Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu and Andrei Sannikau for additional free time on state TV. The CEC found no grounds to satisfy the request, and it was rejected. CEC Secretary Mikalai Lazavik explained that CEC inquiry on whether additional time can be provided to the candidates was dismissed by the Belarusian State TV and Radio Company which advised the candidates to buy TV time in the other broadcast media and cover related expenses from their electoral funds.
Participation of the candidates and their authorized representatives in the live TV and radio debates (1 hour each) was a new development compared to the 2006 election. TV debates took place on 4 December (from 17:00 till 18:00) at the First Channel of the Belarusian TV. All candidates except for Alyaksandr Lukashenka participated. Belarusian TV and Radio Company rejected a moderator proposed by the debates’ participants. The debates were instead moderated by journalists known for their programmes aimed at defamation of the opposition. Some of their remarks during the debates were aimed at presenting some participants in a negative light.
Radio debates took place on 5 December (from 17:00 till 18:00) and were broadcast live on the First National Channel of the Belarusian Radio. Unlike the TV debates, the radio debates were moderated in a neutral manner.
Access of all candidates except for the incumbent president to the state broadcast media was limited by the appearances and debates mentioned above. The other TV and radio programmes dedicated to the election were characterized by “the positive positioning of the incumbent president and his explicit dominance… while the other candidates were marginalized”. In particular, Lukashenka highlighted his election programme during his speeches at the All-Belarus People’s Meeting (held 6–7 December), which lasted several hours and were broadly broadcast by the national TV and radio channels, both live and recorded.
Such inequality of campaigning conditions did not provoke any concerns of the Supervisory Council to Control Order and Rules of Electoral Campaigning in Mass Media. The Council does not include any independent experts, and did not have any meetings yet.
VI. CAMPAIGN IN PRINT MEDIA AND BY MEANS OF OTHER PRINTED MATERIALS
The state mass media is obliged to provide equal opportunities to all candidates. The candidates had the right to have their programmes of no more than 5 pages printed for free in the national newspapers Zvyazda, Sovetskaya Belorussia, Narodnaya Gazeta and Respublika, Minsk newspaper Minsky Kurier, and regional newspapers Zarya (Brest region), Gomelskaya Pravda (Homel region), Minskaya Pravda (Minsk region), Mogilevskaya Pravda (Mahilyou region), Hrodzenskaya Prauda (Hrodno region) and Vitsebski Rabochy (Vitsebsk region).
Candidiates Ryhor Kastusyou, Vital Rymasheuski and Dzmitry Uss faced refusals from some newspapers editorial boards to print their election programmes in the original wording. For instance, in Kastusyou’s programmes “Lukashism” and Lukashenka’s regime were replaced with one person’s regime and authoritarian regimes. And in Uss’s programme it concerned a comparison between the current electoral system of Belarus and electoral system of Germany in 1930s.
CEC Chair Yarmoshyna commented on the situation as follows: “Editorial boards act so only in cases when they [programmes of the candidates – “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections”] contain obvious violations of the law on mass media and electoral legislation. For instance, one candidate was constantly calling voters to come to an unsanctioned rally. He rejected requests of the editorial boards to eliminate such calls from his programme. According to the law, boards are not allowed to amend wording of the candidates’ programmes”.
Programmes of different candidates were presented in the same newspapers in a different manner. Lukashenka’s programme was always printed first, and the issues in which it was printed did not contain programmes of the other candidates. As a rule, Lukashenka’s programme was printed on the first page, occupied it fully and was accompanied by large pictures of him. Programmes of the other candidates usually were printed on the inside pages, and often on the last page.
Inequality of campaigning conditions is illustrated by the fact that the state regional newspapers did not print programmes of any candidates because the law does not oblige them to do so. However, virtually all regional newspapers printed an article titled “Belarus should be really strong!” which in fact retells Lukashenka’s election programme.
The attitude of newspapers’ editorial boards towards all candidates except for Lukashenka is well illustrated by the titles of the articles: “Phony People” (Mayak, newspaper of Byaroza District Executive Committee, Brest region), “Candidate, Why You Did Not Serve in Army?” (Vitsebsky Rabochy), “It is a Disaster when Cakes are Baked by a Shoemaker…” (Adzinstva, newspaper of Barysau District Executive Committee, Minsk region), “Train Yourself… on Cats!” (Gomelskaya Pravda).
Titles and content of articles in support of Lukashenka had a different tone: “Everything for People and in the Name of People” (Ashmyanski Vesnik, newspaper of Ashmyany District Executive Committee, Hrodna region), “During Election, One Should Bring People the Good” (Adzinstva), “Conscious Choice” (Gomelskie Vedomosti, newspaper of Homel City Executive Committee), “We Elect a Person Whom We Know Well” (Gomelskaya Pravda). Opinion polls printed by state newspapers contain only positive opinions about Lukashenka and criticism of all other candidates.
Candidates’ teams reported on cases when authorities and management of enterprises and institutions created obstacles to posting campaign posters. For instance, in Salihorsk (Minsk region) in Yubileynaya store at Lenina Street, a volunteer of Nyaklyaeu’s team was not allowed post a poster. A similar prohibition in the canteen at Zaslonava Street was explained as follows: “We will vote for our president, and we will not post your poster”. Cases of removal of Sannikau’s posters were reported in Mahilyou, posters of Kastusyou – in Byaroza (Brest region) and Krasnapolle (Mahilyou region), Rymasheuski’s posters were removed in Masty and Slonim (Hrodna region), and in many other places. On 9 December, near department store No 32 at Bahdanovicha Street in Slutsk (Minsk region), Sannikau’s authorized representative Uladzimir Lemesh bumped into two young men who were putting big advertising posters over Sannikau’s posters “at the instruction of their bosses”.
V. MEETINGS WITH VOTERS AND OTHER CAMPAIGN EVENTS
The places for meetings of the candidates and their authorized representatives with voters and other mass campaign events were defined by local executive committees in terms prescribed by the electoral legislation and the CEC. In the absolute majority of regions, except for Minsk, inconvenient and distant places for the outdoor meetings and small premises for indoor meetings were allocated. Later, some decisions on allocation of places were changed, and the number of places was increased.
Meetings of the candidates and their authorized representatives with voters were held without considerable obstacles. However, some institutions refused to provide premises for the meetings of certain candidates. For instance, Yaraslau Ramanchuk was refused in Homel State Technical University, Belarusian Trade and Economic University (Homel) and in International Institute of Trade and Labour Relations (Minsk). Nyaklyaeu was refused in Brest State University. On 30 November, the CEC issued warnings to Vital Rymasheuski and Mikalai Statkevich for violation of electoral legislation during a pre-election rally held on 14 November at Kastrychnitskaya Square of Minsk.
Campaigning in support of Lukashenka is being carried out by ‘mobile information brigades’ comprised of representative of local authorities and CEOs of state enterprises and institutions. They arrange labour collective gatherings and voter meetings with the authorized representatives of Lukashenka. Usually, such gatherings and meetings are held during working hours, and participation is obligatory. For instance, in Shklou (Mahilyou region), before the meeting of voters with the authorized representative of Lukashenka, rector of the Mahilyou State University of Food Vyachaslau Sharshunou (on 1 December), town’s organizations and enterprises received instructions on how many persons they have to send to the meeting.
At the same time, management of enterprises and institutions warn subordinates against participation in meetings with the other candidates and their authorized representatives. For instance, according to Nyaklyaeu’s authorized representative Petr Migurski, CEOs of several enterprises in Shklou promised to fire those workers who would participate in a meeting with Nyaklyaeu which was to be held on 1 December.
The aim of the campaign "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections" is observation of the election of the President of Belarus, assessment of the electoral process from the viewpoint of Belarusian electoral legislation and international standards of free and democratic elections, and keeping the Belarusian public and international community duly informed about our conclusions. The campaign is independent and politically non-engaged. More information about the campaign may be found in the websites of the Human Rights Centre "Viasna" (http://spring96.org) and Belarusian Helsinki Committee (http://www.belhelcom.org).
 BelTA. 30 November 2010.
Coverage of 2010 Presidential Election by the Belarusian Mass Media / Bulletin of the Belarusian Association of Journalists, http://baj.by
 BelTA, 30 November 2010.