“Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections” demand transparency in voting and vote count
On July 22, the Central Election Commission adopted a resolution amending Resolution No. 15 of May 8, 2020 “On the approval of the Regulations on the procedure for delegating and the activities of observers in the preparation and conduct of the 2020 presidential election in the Republic of Belarus”.
The amendments introduced restrictions on the number of observers who can be simultaneously present at polling stations: up to 5 observers on the polling day (August 9), and up to 3 — during the early voting period. In addition, it is envisaged that at polling stations with the number of PEC members below 8 persons, the maximum number of observers may not exceed half of the commission's size.
In this regard, the campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections” states:
In accordance with Article 13 of the Electoral Code, the preparation and conduct of presidential elections are carried out openly and publicly. The implementation of this principle is ensured, among other things, by the right of observers to be present at polling stations.
Given that by the time the CEC amended its resolution, more than 40,000 observers representing pro-government political parties and public associations had been accredited with precinct election commissions, it can be concluded that the authorities artificially created conditions under which independent observation of the voting and counting phase is effectively unachievable. Conducting voting and vote counting in such conditions is contrary to the standards of free, fair and democratic elections.
During the discussion of the draft amendments to the resolution, CEC chairperson Lidziya Yarmoshyna referred to the recommendation of the Ministry of Health on sanitary and anti-epidemic measures during the presidential election. However, an analysis of these recommendations leads to the conclusion that they are adequate to the current situation and are aimed primarily at creating the necessary conditions under which it would be possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The decision of the CEC does not take into account these recommendations, while unreasonably and artificially limiting the possibilities of observation.
It should be reminded that in accordance with the Copenhagen Document of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Republic of Belarus, as an OSCE participating State, confirmed that the presence of both foreign and national observers can enhance the electoral process. This means that Belarus has recognized that observation plays an important role in increasing the transparency and accountability of elections, as well as in strengthening public confidence in the electoral process.
Earlier, “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections” stated that the conditions of the election campaign created by the authorities did not meet international standards for fair and democratic elections based on the principles of equal political competition. Today’s decision of the CEC is in fact a complete cancellation of the last election procedures in the country.
In this regard, we once again call on the Belarusian authorities to ensure the full exercise of fundamental human rights and freedoms enshrined in the Constitution, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Copenhagen Document and other international human rights instruments, including the right to freedom of expression, the right to peaceful assembly, the right to be elected in free elections, the right not to be subjected to arbitrary detention, and to stop pressure and intimidation of citizens in connection with their participation in the election campaign.
We call on the CEC to:
• reconsider its decision, which severely and unreasonably limits the possibilities of observation;
• ensure the possibility of livestreaming the process of voting and the counting of ballots, by requesting funding, including from sources not prohibited by law.
We call on the precinct election commissions:
• to implement the principle of equality through providing access for independent observers in accordance with the recommendations of the Ministry of Health.