Referendum 2022: Analytical report of the expert mission on the evaluation of the constitutional referendum

1.03.2022

The expert mission of observation of the 2022 referendum is carried out by the Belarusian Helsinki Committee and the Human Rights Center "Viasna" within the campaign "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections".

SUMMARY

  • Preparation for the referendum took place against the backdrop of a profound socio-political crisis that began immediately after the 2020 presidential election and the pervasive atmosphere of repression targeting those disloyal to the authorities, as well as a tense international situation caused by the possible armed conflict between the Russian Federation and Ukraine, as well as the current Russian-Belarusian military exercises.
  • On February 24, the Russian Federation launched a military attack on Ukraine, including from the territory of Belarus. The transport and military infrastructure of Belarus is used for military operations.
  • The authorities have not made any attempts to eliminate the factors in the legal regulation of electoral procedures that led to the onset of the post-election crisis in August 2020.
  • The draft amendments to the Constitution, which were first announced by the authorities more than two years ago, became available to the public less than a month before the referendum was called. During this period, the authorities organized a discussion of the draft, mainly at government-owned businesses and organizations, which in reality constituted campaigning, as well as at the so-called “dialogue platforms” arranged in cooperation with government agencies and pro-government organizations.
  • The process of discussing changes and additions to the draft Constitution and considering the submitted proposals did not take into account critical opinions and was another example of the formal practice of “nationwide discussion”, designed to replace a transparent and inclusive debate on proposals from various groups of society.
  • As a result, the proposed amendments to the Constitution have aroused fair criticism from the expert community.
  • The preparation and conduct of the referendum did not meet a number of basic international standards for holding democratic and fair elections and was accompanied by numerous violations of these principles and provisions of national legislation. This was due to the atmosphere of fear on the eve and during the referendum, caused by a crackdown on citizens, civil society organizations, and independent media; lack of unbiased election commissions; unequal access to state media for supporters and opponents of constitutional changes; use of administrative resources to support the draft submitted to the referendum on changes to the Constitution; arbitrary deprivation of the right to vote of citizens who are outside the Republic of Belarus; numerous facts of coercion of voters to participate in early voting; inaccessibility of electoral procedures for observers.
  • Ongoing repression of civil society, preparation, and conduct of the referendum in an atmosphere of total fear, and introduced by CEC restrictions on the number of observers at polling stations led to a lack of independent monitoring of all types of voting (early voting, voting on the main election day and mobile voting) as well as the vote count; these important phases of the election campaign were completely non-transparent. This assessment cannot be changed by the presence of pro-government observers at polling stations and commissions.
  • Significant violations of the national legislation and fundamental principles of fair and democratic elections during the referendum, including depriving observers of the opportunity to monitor the counting of voting results, do not provide grounds to trust the election results announced by CEC and consider them reflecting the real will of the citizens of the Republic of Belarus.

Full report to be published shortly

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