Recommendations to make 2020 Presidential election safer and fairer during pandemic
Members of the non-partisan election observation campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections” sent to the Central Election Commission, the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court a set of key proposals on this year’s presidential election scheduled for late August.
The human rights activists note that their goal is assessing the electoral process in terms of Belarusian legislation and international standards of free and democratic elections, informing the Belarusian public and the international community about the course of the election and the results of the observation.
“Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections” emphasize that democratic elections provide the basis for legitimate government and recall that the right to vote and to be elected is constitutional and is guaranteed by the state.
The activists stress that the entire electoral process in a pandemic should be aimed at holding fair and free elections and ensure the safety of both voters and other electoral actors. They share the position of the United Nations that the COVID-19 pandemic is a public health emergency threatening to escalate into a human rights crisis, and therefore we all have the responsibility to come up with more effective and inclusive solutions for today's emergency and tomorrow's recovery.
They also note the importance of dialogue between civil society and government in order to ensure free and fair elections.
Based on this, the human rights defenders suggest that the legislative and executive authorities of Belarus should develop and adopt a set of legislative and organizational measures that would ensure the safe implementation of the citizens’ voting rights without disproportionate pandemic-related restrictions and compensate for proportional restrictions by providing new opportunities, while expressing willingness to contribute to the development of such measures.
“We note that there is a potential danger to the life and health of citizens in all procedures of the electoral process involving contact between people, and even more so, people being in the same place both indoors and outdoors. We believe that the perception of this danger will be an obstacle to free participation citizens and political actors in the election process, will lead to a decrease in the legitimacy of the election and can become a serious barrier to the exercise of the most important rights of voters and active participants in the election process,” said the open letter.
In particular, the activists suggest that the Parliament should adopt legislative tools allowing remote support for a candidate’s nomination, including by electronic mail and via text messaging. The number of support signatures selected for verification can also be decreased, which is in line with the OSCE ODIHR recommendations.
The election authorities are encouraged to enhance the use of electronic documentation and video conference tools, including, where possible, during vote count. Observers should have free access to the online meetings of election management bodies.
The candidates should be entitled to free extra airtime on public TV in order to compensate for decreased opportunities of meeting with the voters.
The ballots should be counted by one member of the election commission and each ballot should be displayed, while all those present should respect WHO recommendations on physical distancing.
E-judiciary should be introduced to allow online hearing of electoral disputes and appeals.