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".
- In 2015, the elections take place against the backdrop of a difficult geopolitical situation in the world and Europe;
- the elections are accompanied with adverse trends in social and economic development of Belarus;
- the political rhetoric about gradual convergence of positions of Belarus and democratic countries
is countered by human rights violations on the part of the state in many spheres;
- the presence of political prisoners seriously undermines the credibility of the statement of the Belarusian government officials about the pursuit of democracy;
- the elections are preceded by numerous violations of human rights by the state;
- the elections will be conducted under the legislation, which has disregarded the objective hard criticism from observers and international organizations, and in some cases has established even less democratic rules.
The legal framework of the electoral system of the Republic of Belarus is the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, the Electoral Code and other legislative acts of the Republic of Belarus, as well as the rulings of the Central Commission for Elections and National Referenda (hereinafter - the Central Election Commission, CEC).
The Presidential Elections in 2015 are preceded by amendments to the Electoral Code of the Republic of Belarus of November 25, 2013. The Laws of the Republic of Belarus of November 8, 2011 and June 4, 2015 have also twice introduced amendments which prohibit foreign funding of the electoral process.
These changes, unfortunately, ignore the recommendations of the OSCE, made on the basis of observing the parliamentary elections in 2012. Moreover, some of the new rules of the Electoral Code even worsened the situation as compared to the pre-existing one in a number of positions.
January 4, 2014 Belarus acceded to the Convention on standards of democratic elections, electoral rights and freedoms of the member states of the Commonwealth of Independent States, signed in Chisinau on October 7, 2002.
The new rules banning campaigning for a boycott of the elections are clearly contrary to the provisions of the aforementioned Convention of the CIS which stipulates that a boycott or appeals to boycott elections are forms of the free exertion of electoral rights and freedoms, and creation of obstacles to the implementation of this right should be prosecuted.
In 2015, the economic situation of Belarus has been unstable and has been showing negative tendencies. At present the National Statistics Committee, foreign investments in the real sector decreased by 29.1% in comparison with I quarter of 2014; 1/5 of the enterprises and organizations are unprofitable; nominal average monthly salary in May amounted to 6,687,564 rubles, which is 3.1% less than in May 2014. The number of registered unemployed at the end of May 2015 amounted to 44.7 thousand, which is two times higher than at the end of May 2014; as of May 2015, the sum of the wage arrears in the surveyed enterprises and organizations has increased by 45.5%.
The elections are held in a complex geopolitical situation in the world and Europe, including in connection with the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. In recent years, there is a tendency to warming of relations between Belarus on the one hand, and the United States and the European Union - on the other. However, the observance of human rights in Belarus remains consistently poor, lacking systemic positive changes in this respect.
The fact that the desire for democratic transformations does not go beyond negotiating rhetoric is witnessed by the fact that Belarus continues holding six political prisoners, one of which, Mikalai Statkevich, is a candidate for President at the previous election.
The facts of torture and cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment of the presidential candidates in the 2010 elections and their election headquarters in the remand prison of the KGB and correctional colonies failed to receive a proper investigation.
The practice of arbitrary detention of social activists persists in Belarus, the right to peaceful assembly and expressing one's opinions is regularly violated.
The legislation and law enforcement practice severely limit the activities of the media and journalists.
Appointment of the elections and the electoral process
According to the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus (Art. 81) and the Election Code (Art. 56), "Election of the President shall be appointed by the House of Representatives no later than five months and held no later than two months before the expiration of the term of office of the previous President".
The date of the elections was appointed on 30 June 2015 at the seventh session of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus. The Presidential Elections were scheduled for October 11, 2015.
May 14, 2015 there was a sitting of the Central Commission of Belarus for Elections and National Referenda, which examined issues of preparation for elections of the President of the Republic of Belarus, including the approval of manuals for members of territorial and precinct election commissions and establishing the sample forms for some documents.
July 1, 2015 the Central Commission for Elections and Referenda held another sitting and adopted:
Ruling No. 18 of 1 July 2015 “About clarifying the application of the provisions of Article 61 of the Electoral Code of the Republic of Belarus, which provides the procedure for collecting signatures in support of the persons proposed for nomination as a candidate for President of the Republic of Belarus during the elections in 2015";
Ruling No. 19 of 1 July 2015 “On approval of the approximate scenario of the training for members of election commissions for the elections of the President of the Republic of Belarus";
Ruling No. 20 of 1 July 2015 “On approval of the regulation regarding the nomination of observers in the preparation and conduct of elections of the President of the Republic of Belarus in 2015";
Ruling No. 21 of 1 July 2015 “On approval of provisions regarding the activities of foreign (international) observers in the preparation and conduct of elections of the President of the Republic of Belarus in 2015";
Ruling No. 22 of 1 July 2015 “On informing citizens about the work on the preparation and holding of elections of the President of the Republic of Belarus in 2015";
Ruling No. 23 of 1 July 2015 “On the procedure of participation of citizens of the Republic of Belarus, located outside the Republic of Belarus, in the elections of the President of the Republic of Belarus in 2015";
Ruling No. 24 of 1 July 2015 "On the Supervisory Councils to monitor compliance with the order and rules of election campaigning in the media";
Ruling No. 26 of 1 July 2015 "On creation of additional conditions for voting by voters with visual impairments during the presidential elections in Belarus in 2015".
The practice of selective publication of rulings of the Central Election Commission is questionable from the standpoint of the principle of transparency of the electoral process.
Earlier, the CEC developed and published a Manual for members of precinct commissions on elections of the President of the Republic of Belarus (approved Ruling No. 11 of the Central Commission of Belarus for Elections and National Referenda of May 14, 2015) and a Manual for members of territorial commissions on elections of the President of the Republic of Belarus (approved by Ruling No. 10 of the Central Commission of Belarus for Elections and National Referenda of May 14, 2015). These manuals don't clarify the procedure for counting the votes. Thus, the most sensitive point, particularly criticized by observers, remains intact, showing a lack of interest of the CEC to organize a transparent counting of votes.
The Central Commission of Belarus for Elections and National Referenda also adopted the schedule of arrangements for the preparation and holding of elections of the President of the Republic of Belarus by its Ruling No. 17 of July 1, 2015.