Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections

Праваабарончы цэнтр «Вясна» беларускі хельсінкскі камітэт


New obstacle for Belarusian observers

In the current presidential elections domestic observers will for the first time need to acquire mandatory accreditation. RFE/RL tried to find why it was necessary and how this innovation would affect the work of the Belarusian observers.

Central Election Commission Secretary Mikalai Lazavik said that the 2013 legislation made a few changes and additions. One of them concerns the work of observers:

"According to previous legislation, when the observer or his actions impeded the work of the election commission, the committee chairman could remove him from the polling station. However, the next day or the day after, this man could come back to the same polling station to continue creating obstacles to the work of the commission or provoking a conflict.

Previously, domestic observers didn't have to apply for accreditation, unlike foreign ones. From now on it will be conducted in person: an observer comes and presents direction for observation, issued to him by an organization, workforce, or a group of citizens. His surname is then put in a special register and he can proceed to his work. If he violates the rules of the work and impedes the work of the commission, he is deprived of the accreditation until the end of the election at this precinct.”

"This novelty fits well into the general trend of the authorities - the deterioration of capacity to monitor the transparency of the electoral process", commented the co-chairman of the public campaign "For Free and Fair Elections," Viktar Karniayenka.

"To this I would add the proposal of Mr. Rubinau (former chairman of the Council of the Republic) to generally limit the number of observers. In essence this innovation facilitates the work of election commissions. Earlier, they could remove all observers they didn't like, just for a day. I will give you a concrete example. In 2012, the last parliamentary elections, a Commission removed an observer from a precinct. He allegedly hindered the work of the commission insoas he was chewing bubble gum.

There is also another example. Not so long ago, in September, I was an observer at elections in Sweden. The law of this country doesn't mention observers at all. However, this didn't prevent neither the chairman of the commission, nor any of its members to put me at a table to keep track of all the processes. Even counting the ballots. If one has nothing to hide, then Yarmoshyna would not be that worried."

The innovation of the Central Election Commission will only complicate the work of observers, argues the deputy chairman of the human rights center "Viasna" Valentin Stefanovich:

"Observers used to be expelled from precincts on far-fetched reasons even earlier. If an observer wants to come closer to the place where the votes are counted in order to see how it is done, there were cases when the police arrived on demand of the commissions and forcedly took the observers out of the precincts. The motivation was, as usual, hindrance to the work of the commissions.

Thus, I believe that the authorities will use it to deprive certain observers of their accreditation, so that the latter ones wouldn't be able to get to the precincts again and monitor the elections. This is a sinister step.”

Meanwhile, the first stage of the electoral campaign 2015 is coming to an end. Not later than July 17 the potential candidates must pass to the Central Election Commission the lists of their electoral teams. Thos who ignore this procedure can not continue to participate in the elections.