Human rights activists present their findings regarding the election
This year more than 7 million people were invited to vote in over 6 000 polling stations all over Belarus. Not only the OSCE but also Belarusian observers – with the total number of with 43 572 – monitored the electoral process. The Human Rights Center Viasna and the Belarusian Helsinki Comitee (BHK) coordinated 160 election observers during the early voting process and 326 at different polling stations throughout the country on the election day. They presented their report on the presidential elections on Monday, 12 October, in Minsk.
At the press conference, the organisation´s representatives referred to a number of crucial problems regarding the election process:, for example the constitution of election commissions consisting mostly of people who cannot be regarded as independent. The observers complained that the early voting process remained non-transparent – this practice offers plenty of opportunities to manipulate votes. Furthermore, they criticized the custom of leaving ballot boxes unprotectedn at night even though it would not have been a problem to install cameras.
According to the election legislation, early voting is supposed to be an exceptional case: only if people are not able to vote on the actual election day, they have the opportunity to participate earlier. This year however 36% of the votes were cast during the first five days – it is hardly possible that all these people were for some reason unable to vote the on election day. In fact, early voting is desired by the regime and became quite common. The same can be said about the mobile voting. Moreover, independent election observers from Viasna and BHC reported not transparent counting processes in every monitored polling station. All of the reported legislation violations had occurred already in earlier elections and thus were familiar to the observers.
Concerning human rights violations, this year's elections offered a different picture than the elections in 2010. So far relatively few people have been arrested, however there were no huge protests against the results. Concerning the lack of transparency and violations against the election legislation, not much has changed in comparison to previous presidential elections, reports Valiantsin Stefanovich, deputy head of Viasna.
Together with Aleh Hulak, the representative of the Helsinki Committee, Stefanovich proposed measures to make the election procedures more transparent. However, nothing new has been recommended – the human rights defender´s similar suggestions have been already rejected or simply ignored by the authorities. Against the backdrop of general mistrust in the elections in Belarus, the question remains: why so little is done to raise the level of transparency.