Observation of the presidential elections of the Republic of Belarus is carried out by activists of the RHRPA "Belarusian Helsinki Committee" and the Human Rights Center "Viasna" in the framework of the campaign "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections".
- The election campaign is carried out in accordance with the schedule of activities approved by a Resolution of the Central Commission;
- The TECs held their sittings to establish polling stations before August 9. In some cases, observers from the campaign "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections" could not attend these meetings due to obstacles on the part of the TECs. They also report about violations during the consideration of the complaints and appeals of observers submitted to the CEC and TECs;
- Members of electoral teams continue collecting signatures in support of the nomination of their contenders for the presidential elections;
- Similarly to the previous presidential election, the collection of signatures for the nomination to the elections of the incumbent President is accompanied by the use of administrative resources: the collection of signatures is performed in public enterprises and institutions in the workplaces, often with the direct involvement of representatives of the management of enterprises;
- Most of the reports about coercion of citizens during the collection of signatures for nomination of the candidacy of Aliaksandr Lukashenka are anonymous. There weren't registered any complaints to the prosecuting authorities or other public authorities on the part of citizens about such violations, which witnesses a high level of public fear and low public confidence in the public authorities intended to protect their legitimate rights and interests. The role of the "executive vertical of power", the administration of state-owned enterprises still remains very high during elections;
- State-owned media, especially local ones, present one-sided media coverage of the company, refraining from reports on the activities of the electoral teams of alternative candidates;
- Six persons, whose candidacies are nominated for the presidential elections (S Haidukevich, S. Kaliakin, T. Karatkevich, Zh. Ramanouskaya, U. Tsiareshchanka, N. Ulakhovich), have opened special bank accounts to establish election funds. However, as of August 5, 2015, the state has allocated the appropriate means only to the three accounts belonging to S. Kaliakin, Zh. Ramanouskaya and T. Karatkevich.;
- The resolution on the interpretation of the provisions of the Electoral Code regulating the issues of declaration of income and assets during the presidential elections, adopted by CEC, in general, does not differ significantly from the resolution during the previous presidential campaign. Thus, the Central Election Commission found that a considerable breach by a candidate in the declaration of income and property is when their size is decreased by more than 20% of the total revenue;
- Regulations on the use of the media during the presidential election has kept to the same liberal approach as during the previous presidential campaign. In accordance with this provision, the TV debates of candidates will be televised live.
In accordance with Article 13 of the Electoral Code, the observers shall have the right, inter alia, to attend the sittings of the relevant committees;
The commissions inform domestic and foreign (international) observers about the date, time and place of their sittings.
The collection of signatures for presidential nomination takes place according to the rules established by Article 61 EC and the resolution of the Central Commission of Belarus for Elections and National Referenda of July 1, 2015 № 18 "On the explanation of the application of Article 61 of the Electoral Code of Belarus, providing 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".
Collection of signatures in support of the person proposed for nomination as a candidate for President of the Republic of Belarus is carried out by the initiative group of voters registered by the Central Commission.
The signature list shall indicate the surname, name and patronymic, date of birth, position (occupation), place of work and residence, party membership of the person proposed for nomination as a candidate for President of the Republic of Belarus, as well as the surname, name and patronymic of the member of the initiative group collecting signatures, and the number of registration of the initiative group. Information about the person proposed for nomination as a candidate for President of the Republic of Belarus and the member of the initiative group collecting signatures should be put in the signature sheet prior to the collection of voter signatures. It is prohibited to present to voters the signature sheets that do not have such information.
A voter has the right to sign in support of several contenders proposed for nomination as candidates for the President of the Republic of Belarus, but only once in support of one and the same candidate.
The surname, name and patronymic, date of birth, place of residence, series and number of the passport of the citizen of the Republic of Belarus or the details of another document determined by the Central Commission need to be put in the signature sheet when the citizens signs in support of a person proposed for nomination as a candidate for President of the Republic of Belarus. The voter must put the date and signature in the signature sheet in his own hand. The signatures are numbered.
Participation of the administration in the organization of the collection of signatures, as well as coercion in the process of collecting signatures and rewarding voters for signatures are not allowed. Failure to abide by these restrictions may be the ground for denial of registration or cancellation of the decision on registration of the candidate for the President of the Republic of Belarus.
Collection of signatures may be conducted in the form of picketing. If an electoral picket is held in the places that are not prohibited by the local executive and administrative bodies, there is no need to obtain an official permission for it.
A signature sheet shall be certified by the member of the initiative group who collected the signatures in it. While certifying a signature sheet the member of the initiative group puts his signature and the date of its application, as well as indicates his surname and initials.
In accordance with Article 49-1 of the EC, appeals about violations of the legislation of the Republic of Belarus on elections are filed with the Commissions, state bodies and organizations not later than ten days after the election, unless other terms are established by the EC. Applications submitted after the deadline are left without consideration on the merits, which is communicated to the applicant.
Appeals on violation of legislation received by the Commissions, governmental agencies and organizations are considered within three days from the date of receipt of the application, and appeals associated with the exercise by citizens of the right to vote, the right to participate in the referendum received on election day are considered immediately. Applications, which contain information requiring verification are considered not later than ten days from the date of receipt.
The applicant has the right to examine the materials related to the consideration of his appeal.
Complaints against decisions of commissions are considered at the committees' sittings. The applicant is informed about the date, time and place of the sitting and has the right to be present at the appeal hearing.
ACTIVITIES OF ELECTION COMMISSION
As of August 9, only 15 out of 51 regulations, adopted by the CEC, were published at its website, which indicates the low transparency of the Commission.
A sitting of the CEC was held on August 6. The sitting was attended by all members of the commission, all 10 accredited observers to the CEC, as well as media representatives. Four issues were discussed:
1) the clarification of the application of the provisions of the Electoral Code, which provide for the declaration of income and assets during the elections of the President;
2) approval of the Regulation on the use of the media during the elections of the President;
3) the CEC information center "Elections - 2015";
4) amendments to the Regulations on the election funds of nominees and candidates for the presidency.
According to the CEC Chair Lidziya Yarmoshyna, the interpretation of the provisions of the EC regarding the order of declaration of income and property of presidential candidates, adopted by the CEC, largely echoed the liberal approach, which was first used in the presidential elections in 2010. Candidates for the presidency still have the “right to a mistake” in the submitted declarations, unless it is substantial. A significant breach in accordance with the new interpretation is: an error by more than 20% of the data in the submitted declaration of candidates; lack of information about the property of the candidate; about the vehicles owned by the candidate; about the the existing shares and stakes in the statutory funds of commercial organizations. According to the speaker of the project of interpretation H. Mkrtchtsian, the form of presenting the information on income and property was simplified. The declaration must indicate the total amount of income received by a candidate since 2014/01/01 till 2014/12/31, without deduction of taxes and other deductions (so-called "dirty income"). As noted by Yarmoshyna, this explanation is democratic, and is aimed at maximal simplification for the benefit of the candidates.
L. Yarmoshyna reported on the use of the media in the electoral campaign. She stated that the CEC assumed that the conditions for the use of the media by the candidates should be no worse than in the 2010 elections. According to her, the liberal approaches have been preserved. The candidates will be guaranteed free time on the TV and radio air, as well as to pre-record their speeches. The pre-recorded speeches of the candidates will be broadcast in prime time: on weekdays from 7.00 to 8.00 p.m. on television and from 7.00 to 8.00 a.m. on the radio. As an innovation - the debate will be broadcast live on October 3rd (Saturday) at 5.00 p.m. The time reserved for the debate is 1.5 hours if there will be more than 5 candidates and 1 hour if less than 5 candidates.
According to Yarmoshyna, the CEC took into consideration the proposal of A. Dzmitryieu, the head of the initiative group of Tatsiana Karatkevich, who offered to oblige the representatives of Belarusian TV and Radio Company to organize a briefing on the technical aspects of the candidates' speeches on their eve. The management of the BTRC has given verbal consent for such instruction and included this provision in its internal documents.
Candidates have the right to freely publish their election programs in national and local newspapers. However, she reminded that the candidates must submit their programs for publication in time (until September 20).
The Regulations on the election fund were amended to simplify the procedure for expenditure of the election fund by nominees and presidential candidates. Thus, it was allowed to spend the electoral funds in cash. The bank at the request of the candidate shall issue a necessary part of the funds from the election fund, and the candidate, in turn, must state the purpose of the issuance of money from the fund. Upon spending the funds the candidate must report and attach all primary documents confirming the target spending.
Sittings of the TECs for the establishment of the election precincts were held by August 9, in conformity with the EC and the schedule of the arrangements for preparation and holding of elections of the President of the Republic of Belarus, approved by the Central Commission 2015/07/01 № 17. These decisions of the TECs with indication of the boundaries of each precinct and the location of the respective polling station are to be published in the media within ten days.
COLLECTION OF SIGNATURES
Members of the initiative groups continue collecting signatures for nomination of presidential candidates.
As of 2015/08/05, as reported by state news agency BELTA, initiative groups collected the following number of signatures:
For A. Lukashenka – more than 500,000;
For S. Haidukevich – 55,000 (as of July 30);
For V. Tsiareshchanka – over 52,000 (incomplete);
For M. Ulakhovich – about 47,000;
For T.Karatkevich – about 43,000;
For A. Liabedzka – about 30 000 (incomplete);
For S. Kaliakin – about 30,000.
Zh.Ramanouskaya failed to report the number of the signatures collected by her initiative group.
July 31, CEC head Lidziya Yarmoshyna informed the media that Lukashenka's initiative group had already collected and deposited in the commission 100,000 signatures. At the same time, according to her, the initiative group of A. Liabedzka handed just over 500 signatures. Anatol Liabedzka and the head of his initiative group Viktar Karnei refuted this claim, saying that no signature sheets could be passed to the CEC before their verification by members of the initiative group. There were no explanations whatsoever on the part of the CEC, though such statements evidently harm the potential presidential candidate.
Observers and citizens point at a large number of cases of coercion of employees of enterprises and institutions to put signatures for nomination of Aliaksandr Lukashenka a presidential candidate.
In particular, according to the workers of the enterprise "Mahilioŭchimvalakno”, the collection of signatures for the nomination of the candidate has been held since July 23. Before that, the heads of all departments of the company had told their subordinates to come to work with their passports due to the collection of signatures for nomination of Aliaksandr Lukashenka a presidential candidate, and the need to get their signatures. The workers also pointed out that the signatures were collected only during working hours. "When I signed for Lukashenka, the signature sheets were not filled properly. Nobody showed me any IDs of members of the initiative group of Aliaksandr Lukashenka, the surname of the person who collected the signatures wasn't written on the signature sheets,” said a worker of the enterprise.
August 4, collection of signatures in support of Aliaksandr Lukashenka was held at branch No. 1 of Homieĺ city center polyclinic. As reported by a medic, employees of the polyclinic were ordered to come to the hall of the polyclinic at 12 a.m. – 2 p.m. on August 4. There was a woman who introduced herself as a member of the initiative group of Aliaksandr Lukashenka and collected signatures.
On condition of anonymity, Homieĺ residents reported that last week signatures for A. Lukashenka were collected in Homieĺ regional clinical hospital, and all medics were told to put their signatures for Lukashenka not to have any trouble in the future. Signatures in support of the incumbent President were also collected from the technical personnel in the office of the director of school №27 in Homieĺ during working hours. Homieĺ residents also report about the collection of signatures at the railroad car repair plant and at the factory of concrete products.
"Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections" received information that on July 28 signatures in support of the nomination of Aliaksandr Lukashenka's candidacy were collected during working hours at the enterprise “Homieĺkabieĺ”. As reported by one of the workers, the initiative group of the incumbent president came there. The enterprise administration told the workers to take their passports, come to the checkpoint and put their signatures. Some of the workers were dissatisfied, they shouted and argued. Therefore, the heads of some workshops threatened to fire those who wouldn't sign, as the enterprise had the contract system of employment. As a result, a large number of employees of “Homieĺkabieĺ” took extracts from the passport at the personnel department of the enterprise and went to the checkpoint to put their signatures.
Employees of "Amkador" reported that the main ideologist of the enterprise summoned one employee from each structural unit and gave them signature sheets so that they would collect signatures in support of Aliaksandr Lukashenka. The signature sheets were blank – there weren't surnames of any members of the initiative group of Mr. Lukashenka in them, whereas the collectors weren't member of the initiative group (photo).
The observer A. Lapitski pictured violations during signature collection by the initiative group of Lukashenka in Žodzina: a member of the group allowed a citizen to put a signature for himself and his relative without presenting the necessary documents and entering his passport data (photos).
Violations related to the process of collecting signatures at electoral pickets in support of A. Lukashenka were also reported by an observer from Brest: at 1 p.m. on August 5 the member of the initiative group of A. Lukashenka V.Astapuk was absent from the picket, whereas signatures were collected by a person who was not authorized to collect signatures, "an assistant member of the initiative group of A. Lukashenka M. Marozava who obtained a signatures from the citizen Liudmila Karotsich in presence of the observer. The observer pointed that members of the aforementioned initiative group also used the "Memo to assistant member of the initiative group", which has no imprint. According to a member of the initiative group of A. Lukashenka, Hanna Pishchyk, she got the brochure from the head of the ideology department of Maskoŭski district of Brest.
According to a member of the initiative group of T. Karatkevich, while collecting signatures in Kryčaŭ citizens told her that the head of the economy department of the executive committee I. Prudnikava had told them that they couldn't sign in support of other contenders after signing for the nomination of Aliaksadr Lukashenka.
Citizens who wished to remain anonymous, told an observer that signatures for the nomination of the candidacy of Aliaksandr Lukashenka were collected in the working hours at Dobruš Porcelain Factory, Dobruš paper mill and other enterprises in the town.
According to an observer, the head of the post office №15 in Polack A. Barodzich collected signatures for A. Lukashenka at her workplace during working hours.
According to information provided by an employee of "Belaruskali", one of the heads of units ordered that all employees of the subordinate units bring their passports and sign for the incumbent president. His secretary went to a mine and collected signatures there.
In the words of the military, at the end of July, electoral meetings with the initiative group of Aliaksandr Lukashenka were forcefully organized for officers and ensigns of the 38th Brigade, located in Brest. The present people were were "advised" to sing for the “Supreme Commander”, i.e. the President.
COMPLAINTS AND APPEALS
CEC Chairman L. Yarmoshyna said that the CEC would not consider the complaint of A. Liabedzka concerning the facts of forced collection of signatures for nomination of Aliaksandr Lukashenkka
and the lack of balance in the coverage of the activities of the initiative groups by the website of Minsk City Executive Committee.
The commission didn't consider some complaints about violations of the election process:
The complaint of L. Svetsik from Viciebsk, regarding his illegal removal from the organizational sitting of the TEC of Kastryčnicki district of Viciebsk remains unanswered.
The same concerns the complaint of Uladzimir Labkovich regarding the publication at the section “Elections” of the website of the Čyhunačny District Executive Committee of Homieĺ the announcement about the opening of the "Public reception of the RPA "Bielaja Ruś" and the "Schedule of duty of members of the initiative group of the candidate for President of the Republic of Belarus in the public reception of the Čyhunačny district branch of "Bielaja Ruś". Of course, the name of the contender for whom the signatures were to be collected wasn't written, but earlier "Bielaja Ruś" had openly stated its support to the incumbent President A. Lukashenka. It's worth nothing that this information was removed immediately after Mr. Labkovich had sent an electronic complaint to the CEC.
The verbal appeal of the observer A. Lapitski to Žodzina city election commission on August 5 wasn't registered properly. He hasn't received a timely answer to his previous written appeal regarding the violations by the initiative group of A. Lukashenka during the collection of signatures.
There is also similar information about other complaints of observers to the CEC and other bodies.
Meanwhile, the news reports disseminated on behalf of the CEC Chair L. Yarmoshyna in the state media commonly emphasize the lack of complaints about the electoral process, which, according to L. Yarmoschyna, must mean the observance of all the provisions of the law, all the fundamental rights and guarantees that the Belarusian national electoral law provides to potential presidential candidates.
The newspaper "Zara nad Sožam" writes that “the signatures in support of the candidacy of incumbent President are collected by activists of "Bielaja Ruś", the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus and the Communist Party of Belarus. Chairs of the local branches of "Bielaja Ruś" and FTUB Sviatlana Kazlova and Liubou Larchanka campaigned actively and convincingly explained to all who approached the pickets, the position and direction of domestic and foreign policy of Aliaksandr Lukashenka." and adds that “the secretary of the district committee of the PCB Aliaksandr Paliakshanau "campaigned ardently in support of the candidacy of the current president".
Most of the regional editions of the Mahilioŭ region have placed on their pages information about the collection of signatures for nomination of presidential candidates, but made it in a very peculiar way – absolutely all publications tell only about the collection of signatures in support of the nomination of the incumbent President Aliaksandr Lukashenka and illustrate these articles with relevant photos. The collection of signatures in the Brest region is covered likewise.
According to the NGO "Belarusian Association of Journalists", administrative proceedings under Art. 23.33, "Spread in the media of false information discrediting the honor and dignity of the President of the Republic Belarus" have been brought in relation to a legal person which is entrusted with functions of the editorial board of "Hazieta Slonimskaja". The claims were caused by an article-interview with villagers "Voice of the village. The main thing is that the president is good at talking, "where they speak out about the results of the policy of the current president, including criticizing him. The newspaper faces a fine of up to 90 million rubles.
OBSTACLES TO ELECTION OBSERVATION
In general, at this stage of the election campaign territorial election commissions do not interfere with the work of observers. Many observers have noted a good working relationship with the Commissions that pre-warn them about their sittings and promptly solve issues in the work of the initiative groups of the potential candidates for the presidency.
However, some observers have reported that they were unable to attend the sittings of the commissions or get information from them about the work of the commission.
In particular, the TEC of the Partyzanski district of Minsk refuses to inform the observer about the time of the future sittings.
The same issue is faced by an observe in the town of Hlybokaje.
In Pinsk TEC, an observer several times could not catch any of the members of the TEC in place.
Žhodzina TEC denies an observer the right to observe and see all the important moments of election procedures, in particular, to inspect or examine the documents.
The observer from Hrodna S. Rudkouskaya in advance addressed in writing the Lieninski district TEC in Hrodna to be given the opportunity to observe the process of verification of the signature sheets passed to the commission by the potential candidates. However, the Chair of the commission N. Siamashka replied that such a right wasn't presented to observers by the Electoral Code and they could attend only sittings of election commissions.
According to an observer, observers of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee and the Belarusian Republican Youth Union (BRSM) were removed from a sitting of the TEC of the Kastryčnicki district of Viciebsk before the beginning of the consideration of the agenda item "Other", without any explanations.
Observers from some regions report about inactivity of the TECs athwart the applicable requirements of the EC: in particular, the TECs must hold sittings to establish polling stations. This situation gives grounds to suspect the non-public and non-transparent functioning of TECs. This is confirmed by the following example:
A duty was organized at the Lieninski and Maskoŭski district TECs of Brest. The duty members of the TECs told the observers that no sitting were held. However, on August 7 the website of the Brest City Executive Committee published the information that on August 5 the city administration established polling stations in agreement with the aforementioned TECs.