Belarus

Weekly report: election campaigning


Observation of the presidential election is carried out by the Belarusian Helsinki Committee and the Human Rights Center “Viasna” in the framework of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections”.

SUMMARY

  • the phase of election campaigning differed significantly from the previous elections by the wide activity of the protest electorate both in Minsk and in smaller cities of Belarus;
  • the opportunities of obtaining information about the presidential candidates were severely limited by local executive authorities, which drastically reduced the number of places for campaigning. In many cases, these locations were not suitable for campaigning, e.g. due to remoteness or poor transport accessibility, etc.;
  • the activities of campaign participants and voters outside the designated places were qualified as violations of the law on mass events, and citizens were brought to administrative responsibility resulting in fines and short terms of detention;
  • the election campaign took place in unequal conditions: by abandoning official campaigning, the incumbent made an extensive use of the administrative and propaganda resources of the power vertical, pro-government NGOs and the media. The annual address of the President to the Belarusian people and the National Assembly, which was postponed from April to August 4, was widely covered in the media, which constituted campaigning for the head of state as one of the candidates;
  • meetings of the incumbent’s proxies and government officials at various levels with labor collectives were intensively organized in the regions. They were organized during working hours, in working premises and were not always announced. Journalists were not allowed to attend some of these meetings. Others were banned from taking pictures;
  • the incentive measures taken on the initiative of the incumbent, including an increase in pension rates and their early payment, were in essence bribery of voters and manifestations of the use of administrative resources;
  • the most active and visible was the campaign of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, which was supported by representatives of other alternative candidates’ campaign headquarters earlier barred from running. Tens of thousands of people in different cities attended the rallies in her support;
  • the headquarters of the alternative presidential candidates actively used the Internet and social media to campaign for their candidates, as well as the YouTube video service;
  • the state-owned media combined campaigning in favor of the incumbent with a widespread campaign to discredit the most active alternative candidates. The government-controlled television channels regularly used details of criminal cases involving election campaign participants, which violates the presumption of innocence;
  • for the first time in the history of Belarusian elections, Telegram channels were actively used to promote the negative image of alternative candidates and their platforms, as well as to discredit them personally.

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