Observation is carried out by the Belarusian Helsinki Committee and the Human Rights Center "Viasna" in the framework of the campaign "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections". The observation campaign involves 29 long-term observers.
- Election commissions are one of the key mechanisms of the electoral process at the local elections. Their activities determine whether local elections meet the standards of free and democratic elections.
- As in the previous local elections, one of the major obstacles to nominate representatives to the territorial election commissions (TECs) from political parties and public organizations is a rule endorsed by the Central Election Commission which only allows the nomination of candidates by the organizations’ local branches, provided they are registered at the regional, district and city levels.
- Nomination to the TECs took place in conditions of limited voter awareness. In particular, Annex number 3 to Regulation number 39 of the Central Commission “On informing the citizens about the work and the preparation and holding of elections to the Local Councils of the Republic of Belarus of the twenty-eighth convocation” of 15 November 2017 does not provide for the need to inform the voters about the time and place of meetings of bodies in charge of forming city (in the cities of regional subordination), settlement and village election commissions. Thus, the websites of local executive committees published no information about the time and place of formation of 90% of the TECs.
- The campaign’s observers documented no significant impediments to the reception of nomination documents by representatives of the bodies that formed the TECs.
- Almost all representatives of the campaign had the opportunity to attend the meetings of the bodies that formed the TECs. This was a positive result of the settlement of a long-standing issue by the Central Election Commission’s Regulation number 36 of 15 November 2017. During the local elections of 2014, 46% of the campaign’s representatives were not allowed to attend the meetings of bodies in charge of forming the TECs.
- The meetings of the bodies that formed the TECs were generally held in a formal manner, although in most cases personal and business qualities of nominated candidates were discussed. Two representatives of the campaign reported voting for pre-arranged lists of TEC members.
- Representatives of the campaign were in most cases denied access to nomination documents, and in those cases where it was allowed the documents were only displayed by representatives of the bodies that formed the TECs. Under such circumstances, it was difficult to fully assess the correctness of information provided by the nominees who were eventually approved as members of the TECs.
- The number of candidates nominated to the TECs by all the registered political parties amounted to 161 persons (1.4% of the total number of nominees), which roughly coincides with the amount nominated by the parties during the local elections of 2014 (1.29%). This trend reflects the low role of political parties in the electoral processes of the country as a whole. In total, 125 representatives of political parties were included in the TECs (1.2% of all TEC members).
- As before, the main actors who nominated their representatives to election commissions were public associations (4,101 nominees or 36.7% of the total amount and 37.9% of the total number of TEC members) and individuals by collecting signatures (5,732 persons or 51.3% of the total amount and 50.3% of the total number of TEC members). The five biggest pro-government associations (Belaya Rus, Belarusian Republican Youth Union, Belarusian Women’s Union, Belarusian Public Association of Veterans, and the Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus) nominated a total of 3,780 persons (33.8% of the total amount). The results of meetings of the bodies that formed the TECs demonstrate that the representatives of these associations accounted for 35% of the total number of TEC members.
- Traditionally, low is the number of members of opposition parties in the composition of the TECs. Four opposition parties (Just World, Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada), UCP and BPF) nominated 34 persons (0.3% of the total number of nominees). Of them, only 7 were included in the TECs (0.067% of the total number of TEC members). Thus, only 20.6% of the nominees from the opposition parties were included in the TECs. For example, the number of TEC members nominated by the five pro-government organizations is 3,780 persons (97.3% of their nominees). 92.9% of the persons nominated by the five pro-government political parties (Belarusian Social and Sports Party, Communist Party of Belarus, Liberal-Democratic Party, Republican Party of Labor and Justice, and Social Democratic Party of National Accord) were eventually included in the TECs. The bodies in charge of forming the election commissions still applied discriminatory attitudes to the nominees from the opposition parties.
- The main criterion used in the formation of the TECs is previous experience in election commissions. It should be noted that the introduction of a rule by the Central Election Commission that called for the discussion of business and personal qualities of the candidates did not contribute to greater political pluralism in the TECs.
- The process of the formation of the TECs during these elections took place in an atmosphere of greater transparency as compared to the previous local elections of 2014, but generally applied practices and the results of the formation of the TECs did not differ from previous election campaigns.