The Central Election Commission has limited the number of observers who will be allowed to monitor the process of voting at polling stations, citing coronavirus statistics as the cause for the controversial decision.
At a meeting held today, CEC chairperson Lidziya Yarmoshyna proposed to reduce the number of observers to five at a time on the polling day, August 9, and no more than 50% of the commission size during the five days of early voting, in general — no more than three persons at a time. Priority will be given to those observers who have already been accredited.
As of today, the electoral authorities have granted clearance to some 40,000 observers, the overwhelming majority of them representing pro-government organizations, including Belay Rus, the Youth Union and the Union of Women. They will be deployed at some 5,700 polling stations.
According to electoral experts, the decision will effectively deprive independent observers of any opportunity to scrutinize voting procedures and, accordingly, report on vote rigging.
“Today’s decision is in fact the final cancellation of the remaining election procedures. It contradicts the principle of publicity enshrined in Article 13 of the Electoral Code. Now the authorities will hold the election with their election commissions and their observers, and with such a system, there can be absolutely no respect for the standards of free, fair and democratic elections,” Uladzimir Labkovich, coordinator of “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections”, said.
Labkovich says that what happened was a planned operation aimed to destroy the last hallmarks of democratic elections as we know them.
“The authorities closed the precinct election commissions until July 24, so that no observers could be accredited, then, through behind-the-scenes decisions, they pumped the polling stations with fake observers from pro-government organizations, and finally they formalized the fraud by today’s decision,” Labkovich said.