Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections

Праваабарончы цэнтр «Вясна» беларускі хельсінкскі камітэт


What difficulties are faced by observers during elections?

Human rights defender Hary Pahaniaila
Human rights defender Hary Pahaniaila

The lawyer of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee Hary Pahaniaila talks about the differences between the current presidential campaign from the previous ones and the main difficulties faced by the observers.

Representatives of the RHRPA "Belarusian Helsinki Committee" and the Human Rights Center "Viasna" announced the beginning of the public campaign "Human Rights Defenders for free Elections". 50 long-term observers, distributed throughout the country, will act as a part of the campaign. 400 short-term observers will observe the voting at 200 polling station since the beginning of the early voting.

RR: In your opinion, will this campaign be different for the observers from the previous ones?

Hary Pahaniaila: I think that there won't be much difference, except for the numbers of STOs and LTOs. We have been monitoring elections since 1995 and have taken parts in all campaigns – presidential, parliamentary and local elections. In general, the methodology remains the same – we discover violations of the acting legislation and the international electoral standards by the authorities and by participants of the electoral process with the assistance of our observers.
I should note that we hold an independent observation and have nothing to do with any political parties.

RR: What difficulties are commonly encountered by observers during the elections?

Hary Pahaniaila: The main difficulty is the counteraction of the local authorities and polling station
election commissions who impede the normal work of observers. Our people just want the election to be held openly and transparently, nothing more than that. Moreover, there are no legal mechanisms the observers could use for that, such as appealing violations of the electoral legislation at courts.

One also mustn't forget about the influcence of the law-enforcement agencies on observers, who are sometimes drawn to administrative responsibility for far-fetched reasons. Such practice has been developed in the course of the previous campaigns. We also faced with the blocking of websites of human rights organizations during the electoral campaigns with the use of various illegal techniques. To put it short, we have never been able to conduct our observation in an absolutely free atmosphere.

RR: May anything change for the better this time?

Hary Pahaniaila: the authorities keep saying that all observers can quietly do their job during the election, but I would say that our officials have learned to create a positive outward image. However, one needs to understand, that apart from it there are shadow techniques of manipulation of the results of the voting. That's why the most complex question of the elections is whether their results will really reflect the people's will. And this question is to be answered by the observation. We will try to monitor the election at the widest scope in order to cover as much territory as we can.