Weekly report: nomination and signature collection phase
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”.
- the nomination and registration of presidential candidates took place in an atmosphere of threats, fear and pressure on voters in connection with their activity in the elections. From the announcement of the election until the end of the phase of nomination and registration of presidential candidates, there were more than 700 detentions of members of nomination groups, activists, politicians, bloggers, journalists, and peaceful protesters. 129 people were sentenced to short terms of administrative detention, 252 were fined, 25 were taken into custody on criminal charges and were eventually called political prisoners by the country’s leading human rights organizations;
- 55 people applied for registration of their nomination groups to be able to stand as presidential candidates, which is an all-time record in the history of Belarusian presidential elections;
- 15 nomination groups were registered by the election authorities: Aliaksandr Lukashenka, Aleh Haidukevich, Yury Hantsevich, Uladzimir Niapomniashchykh, Natallia Kisel, Viktar Babaryka, Valery Tsapkala, Siarhei Cherachen, Volha Kavalkova, Hanna Kanapatskaya, Andrei Dzmitryeu, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Aliaksandr Tabolich, Yury Hubarevich and Mikalai Kazlou, which is 27% of the total number of applications for registration;
- refusals to register several nomination groups on the grounds of alleged violation of voluntary participation in elections are evidence of the CEC’s manipulations with the provisions of the Electoral Code, which are clearly contrary to the principle of equality of candidates. The results of the Supreme Court’s hearings of appeals against the refusals to register the nomination groups demonstrate the ineffectiveness of this remedy for election participants;
- the government-imposed restrictions on activities to support presidential nominations did not result in serious obstacles to the collection of signatures by the nomination groups. The local authorities still fail to apply a unified approach to the selection of locations for nomination pickets;
- the lifting of the ban on collecting signatures on the territories of enterprises and institutions created additional conditions for the illegal use of administrative resources in support of the incumbent, which was confirmed by numerous facts documented by the campaign’s observers;
- the collection of signatures was marred by serious violations of the standards of free and democratic elections, and the nomination groups of some candidates were subjected to significant pressure from law enforcement agencies;
- the election authorities confirmed the collection of the required 100,000 signatures by six potential candidates. The verification of signatures was still non-transparent. An additional reason for distrust of its results and the subject of a wide public discussion was the fact that the CEC reported the validity of almost two and a half times more signatures collected by two potential candidates than they had previously announced;
- out of seven persons who were nominated as presidential candidates and submitted signatures collected for their nomination, five were registered as candidates;
- the registration process was marked by violations of the standards of fair elections. Viktar Babaryka was denied registration on the basis of information leaked by the State Control Committee, an authority investigating the nominee’s alleged involvement in money laundering and tax fraud, which violates the principle of the presumption of innocence. The CEC’s decision to deny Viktar Babaryka registration as a candidate for President violates his right to be elected;
- on July 14, people took to the streets in different cities of Belarus to protest against the refusal to register two alternative candidates, Viktar Babaryka and Valery Tsapkala. About 280 people were detained, with about 250 of them in Minsk. Among the detainees were journalists who were covering the protests. On July 15, the Investigative Committee opened a criminal case under Art. 342 of the Criminal Code to investigate allegations of “disturbances” linked to the events in Minsk.
The full observation report is available to download below.