Local elections in Belarus: recent reports
Local elections in Belarus took place on February 18, 2018. Within the campaign "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections", the Belarusian Helsinki Committee and the Human Rights Center "Viasna" have published several in depth-reports analysing assessing the election’s compliance with the standards of free democratic elections.
According to the report on the Territorial Election Commissions (TECs), one of the major obstacles to nominate representatives to the TECs from political parties and public organizations is a rule endorsed by the Central Election Commission which only allows the nomination of candidates by the organizations’ local branches, provided they are registered at the regional, district and city levels.
On of the findings of the report on District Election Commissions (DECs) is that executive officials still demonstrated an obviously discriminatory approach to the opposition parties during the formation of the DECs. The introduction of a requirement to consider the candidates’ professional and personal qualities did not contribute to greater political pluralism. The process of formation of the DECs took place in an atmosphere of greater transparency as compared to the previous local elections of 2014, but in general the new practices and the results of the formation of the DECs did not differ from previous election campaigns.
According to observers, the registration of nomination groups was marked by several flaws, e.g. in the Orša district commission. The commission registered a nomination group of Sviataslau Chernikau, head of the Radunskaje agricultural enterprise, who specified his party affiliation as the “Belaya Rus party”. After observers of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders For Free Elections” objected that there is no such party in the country, the commission agreed but did not change its decision, promising to look into the matter.
The precinct election commissions (hereinafter —PECs) are the key actor of the election process. It is the PECs that directly organize and conduct early voting, voting on Election Day, and home voting, counting of the votes and tabulation at the polling stations. As in the previous local elections, one of the essential legally - enshrined obstacles to the nomination of representatives of political parties and public associations to the PECs is a requirement to possess registered local branches.
The findings of the report on monitoring the registration of candidates for deputies show that the percentage of candidates from the pro-government political parties exceeds that of the opposition parties. Statistics of refusals to register and withdrawn nominations not only demonstrate the level of political intensity, but also the level of applying the technical procedures of registration (verification of signatures, declarations, etc.) in the political struggle.
It is stated in the report on monitoring the phase of election campaigning that pro-government candidates (acting deputies, officials or CEOs at state-owned businesses) were supported by state-owned media and administrative resources, while there was virtually no information about the candidates from the opposition. This created unequal conditions for the candidates. The district election commissions justified the practice by arguing that the deputies were engaged in their direct activities.