Change is a matter of dialectics
[b]Belarus could shift to one-round parliamentary elections[/b]Changes to electoral legislation are only implemented out of necessity (not from outside pressure), as President Alexander Lukashenko recently noted at a meeting focusing on how best to improve electoral legislation. The Head of State stressed that all issues are open to discussion but that the Electoral Code has been in place in Belarus since 2000, bringing forth four parliamentary election campaigns and one national referendum, in addition to three presidential elections and various local council elections.
Changes to electoral legislation are only implemented out of necessity (not from outside pressure), as President Alexander Lukashenko recently noted at a meeting focusing on how best to improve electoral legislation. The Head of State stressed that all issues are open to discussion but that the Electoral Code has been in place in Belarus since 2000, bringing forth four parliamentary election campaigns and one national referendum, in addition to three presidential elections and various local council elections.
“Despite reproach from our opponents, our elections have been held in line with the Electoral Code, honestly and openly, securing the expression of the Belarusian nation’s will. Our legal mechanism of organising elections works smoothly and effectively,” he emphasised.
The President believes that, like any procedure, the mechanism must adjust to changing times, working flexibly. “However, improvement should not entail the destruction of established and steadily operating institutions,” he asserted.
The President remarked that the matter had been discussed with the presiding judge of the Constitutional Court. “No legislation can be passed once and for all since life is ever changing. Legislation must keep up with the vigorously changing flow of society. While allowing for change within the election process, we should base our decisions on real life, asking ourselves whether we are reacting to real problems,” stressed the Head of State. He added, “Some say that public organisations should receive the right to nominate candidates for deputies. However, we have thousands of public organisations. Secondly, why should we do this? Do we have a shortage of nominated candidates? Are candidates for deputies in short supply? They are not, so why do we have to make such suggestions? Are we anticipating something?”
According to Mr. Lukashenko, change should reflect real life needs, with improvement of electoral law aiming to help citizens realise their election rights in full, while counteracting attempts to disrupt the process. The Head of State believes that the existing Electoral Code is effective. “We have held top-notch elections. If we forget the partisan opinions voiced by some of our opponents and look at the real picture (the opinions of our well-wishers and neutral people) we can see that they envy our level of elections. Everyone says that they are serious and worthy of admiration,” the President notes.“We can also take a closer look at the OSCE recommendations — made after monitoring the parliamentary elections in 2012. We don’t necessarily agree with all the OSCE views but we understand what the OSCE wants from us. In responding, we need to note the true intention behind these suggestions.”
The President emphasised that our national legislation is being improved in the interests of Belarus alone — not at someone else’s bidding. “The Belarusian saying comes to mind that it’s good to listen to others but that you should retain your own opinion. We should forget politicised, contrived views from outside while analysing proposals in our national interests,” Mr. Lukashenko remarked.
“We need to reject all politically motivated and artificial philosophies imposed from outside. However, we must also inspect proposals meeting our national interests,” noted the President.
The meeting looked at proposals by the Central Commission of Belarus for Elections and National Referenda, including recommendations from such international organisations as the OSCE. The Chair of the Central Election Commission, Lidia Yermoshina, presented ideas on how electoral legislation may be improved, joined by the Head of the Presidential Administration, Andrei Kobyakov. Also in attendance was the Foreign Minister, Vladimir Makei, the Chairman of the National Assembly’s House of Representatives, Vladimir Andreichenko, the State Secretary of the Security Council, Leonid Maltsev, and the Governor of the Minsk Region, Boris Batura, among others.
Improvements to electoral legislation were discussed in advance by the same group, without any single position being agreed, leading to detailed discussion at Presidential level. It has been agreed that amendments are necessary to the Electoral Code of Belarus, with Mr.Lukashenko charging his Administration with drawing up a draft law by May, in liaison with parliamentary leaders. This will be presented to the Head of State before submission to Parliament.
“We have no desire to change anything for its own sake. Rather, we’re improving existing legislation, as I promised to do after the last elections. We’ll study the proposals and, if they look feasible, we’ll adopt them. If they appear unworkable, we won’t. Some proposals are sure to be agreeable and new suggestions may be forthcoming,” Mr. Lukashenko emphasises.
Most of those present spoke against allowing national public organisations to nominate candidates as deputies. Ms. Yermoshina believes that the rejection may please those in political opposition. Other initiatives received support, including the transition to a majority principle at first round parliamentary elections, simplifying the election campaign and reducing costs.
The issue of how local council candidates may raise personal election funds was also discussed. A range of proposals regarding prevention of boycotting were debated, with participants agreeing that scuttling of elections should be prevented. The Convention on Standards for Democratic Elections, Electoral Rights and Freedoms in the CIS prohibits electoral boycotting.
It has been agreed that candidates should pay to have leaflets and posters printed, rather than using budgetary funds. However, electoral committees may disseminate information on candidates, in the interest of keeping voters informed. Local elections may also be given a new format.
By Vasily Kharitonov