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Elections - 23 September 2012

Parliamentary elections were conducted 23 September 2012. The elections to Belarus’ National Assembly, its lower house of parliament, elected 110 candidates from 293 candidates, each from one district. The turnout reached just under two-thirds nationally in Belarus' parliamentary elections on Sunday, with the authorities proclaiming the poll a success and the opposition saying it was a farce.

The two main opposition parties, United Civic and the Belarusian Popular Front (BPF), pulled out of the parliamentary election a week earlier, urging voters to go fishing or mushroom picking instead of going to the polls, which they call “pseudo-elections” for a “fake” parliament. Representatives of five opposition groups and parties, said the vote could not be described as transparent or democratic due to interference by the authorities in the electoral process. “This [interference] gives us the right, now, independently of the voting results which will be declared by the election commission, in which opposition political structures’ representatives were not allowed, to say before the results are declared that we do not recognize these 2012 elections to the chamber of deputies as fair, transparent or democratic,” said a statement signed by representatives of the Belarusian left party Fair World, the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Gromada), For Freedom movement, the Speak the Truth civil campaign and BNF party.

While there was an increase in the number of candidates put forward by parties, prominent political figures who might have played a role remained in prison or were not eligible to register because of their criminal record. Arbitrary administrative decisions also constrained the field of contestants, limiting voters’ choices. The elections were not administered in an impartial manner and the complaints and appeals process did not guarantee effective remedy. The process of candidate registration was marred by an overly technical application of the law that resulted in the exclusion of one in four nominees. Two political parties boycotted the elections [Conservative Christian Party BPF (CCP-BPF) and the Belarusian Social Democratic Hramada (BSDH)] and two additional parties [United Civic Party (UCP), and the Belarusian Popular Front (Party BPF)] withdrew their candidates, citing the continued imprisonment of individuals on political grounds, the limited role of parliament, and a low level of confidence in the electoral process.

Although the campaign was generally calm, several incidents marred the process, including reports of intimidation of opposition candidates and activists. In particular, activists of the Tell the Truth campaign and its youth group, Zmena, appear to have been subjected to a high number of arrests for minor administrative offenses. These and other incidents contributed to an atmosphere of intimidation and pressure on candidates and activists associated with the opposition.

The election campaign officially commenced after the registration of candidates on 23 August 2012. Despite a small increase in activity during the last two weeks before election day, the campaign remained barely visible in most parts of the country. The campaign took place in a controlled environment. Regulations placed limits on campaigning, including holding meetings with voters, printing and distributing campaign materials, as well as accessing the media. Monitored state TV channels dedicated 60 per cent of their prime-time news coverage to the President, 24 per cent to government officials, 13 per cent to the Central Election Commission (CEC), and less than 1 per cent to political parties and independent candidates combined. Overall, the low-level of campaign activity, which correlated with general public disinterest in the electoral process, raised questions about voters’ ability to make an informed choice on election day.

“We have covered all districts and used the method approved by the OSCE and Belarus. I witnessed competitive spirit at the hockey and soccer matches but not during the election campaign." were the words used by the head of the mission of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Antonio Milošoski to describe the Parliamentary elections in Belarus. On 24 September 2012 Co-ordinator of the OSCE short-term observer mission Mateo Mecacci stated that the Parliamentary elections in Belarus were not competitive from the very beginning. At the same time, the OSCE representative pointed out that “we are not going to export democracy” to Belarus.





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