Belarus

Local elections in Belarus: Report on monitoring the phase of election campaigning

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

In comparison with the previous elections of local councils of deputies,  this year’s  elections are marked by a greater number of locations  for  campaigning events,  meetings with voters and posting campaign materials. These venues are also more convenient. When making decisions about campaigning locations,  local government s were increasingly guided by the principle “everything which is not forbidden is allowed.”

Much more candidates, as compared to the  previous elections, filed notices of events  under a  simplified  procedure. Accordingly, the number of announced election pickets increased. Traditionally, election campaigning events were more active in Minsk: one candidate announced an average of about 70 events.

In comparison with the previous elections of deputies of local councils, candidates  made  an extensive use of their right to open  election funds for  financing  election campaign  expenses. Nevertheless, the percentage of candidates who established electoral funds remains low (10.4%).

Only 35% of the observers deployed in the region s reported that local government - owned and private media published the program s of all the candidates. Most state - owned media  were dominated by  publications about  the  pro - government  candidates  (acting deputies,  officials or CEOs  at state - owned businesses ) , with virtually no  information about the candidates from the opposition. Observers reported a lack of party flyers or other alternative materials. There were documented cases of censorship of  campaign materials of candidates from the opposition,  as well as dissemination  of  false or incomplete information.

Election commissions in the regions mainly failed to  inform the public about the time  and place of the meeting s with voters.

30%  of  the campaign ’s observers  in the regions  reported that  candidates were  deprived  of equal opportunities and could not meet with voters in the  premises provided by the  authorities.

As during previous election campaigns,  administrative resources were extensively used  in favor of pro - government candidates . The y mainly  campaign ed at meetings with  voters in the assembly halls  of government - owned businesses . Voter participation in these meetings was  secured by the administration s of these businesses.

Administrative resources were actively  used  by current deputies taking part in official  events. This created unequal conditions for  other candidates.  The district election commissions justified the practice by  arguing  that  the deputies were engaged in their direct  activities .

There were no significant barriers to elect oral pickets; however, there were elements  of  pressure at the pickets of opposition figures.

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