In full compliance with the law

Two largest observation missions in Belarus — from CIS and OSCE ODIHR — publish their interim reports on Presidential elections
Two largest observation missions in Belarus — from CIS and OSCE ODIHR — publish their interim reports on Presidential elections

Observer Alexander Kobrinsky conducts monitoring
of pre-election campaign in Mogilev Region

The CIS observation team has declared: ‘The Republic of Belarus has created all necessary legal and organisational-technical conditions for international election observation, which testifies to the openness and transparency of the electoral process.’

The CIS observers note an equal approach towards all contenders during verification of signatures collected, and that the promotion and registration of candidates for the position of President, as well as investigation into complaints and addresses, was held in compliance with the Electoral Code.

The preliminary report from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutes and Human Rights describes in detail the structure of our election system and the process of the pre-election campaign. The report states that some of those polled by the mission, including former candidates for the Presidential post, noted a ‘lack of equal opportunities’: believing that the process of signature verification wasn’t sufficiently transparent. The report doesn’t name its sources specifically but remarks that some opposition leaders called on that voters ‘ignore’ the elections. The report also states that limits on financial funding of candidates for the Presidential position have been raised.

How have these reports been perceived by participants of the elections?

Sergey Pigarev, Deputy Chairman of the Board of the Belaya Rus organisation, of the electoral headquarters of Presidential post candidate Alexander Lukashenko, notes that the assessments are ‘better’ than have been in past years. However, he admits, “We’ve already faced a situation of preliminary reports inspiring optimism, which has been later dispelled by final reports. We’ll be able to speak closely on the assessment of the elections by international observers only after voting is complete. Now, the major conclusion from both reports is as follows: no one should relax, as we need to remain organised and disciplined, strictly observing all the requirements of our electoral legislation, without exception.”

The electoral headquarters of Sergei Gaidukevich agrees with both documents. Its head, Oleg Gaidukevich, explains, “We view both reports as unbiased documents; definite shortcomings remain in the organisation of the elections. Much improvement is still required within the election system but, this time, our campaigning pickets have been broadcast daily on television and in the newspapers. This wasn’t the case previously, so it shows huge progress.”

The electoral headquarters of candidate Nikolay Ulakhovich completely agrees with the preliminary conclusions of the CIS team. As far as the OSCE ODIHR mission report is concerned, the head of the headquarters, Mikhail Obrazov, remarks, “We don’t agree with the comments regarding lack of equal rights and opportunities among Presidential election candidates in Belarus. If some former contenders for the top position ‘had a chance to swing but failed to make the stroke’ they need to take responsibility themselves, rather than blame the election system. Both reports are, however, prudent and objective.”

Tatiana Korotkevich’s electoral headquarters isn’t yet ready to comment on the CIS observation mission report but the head of the headquarters, Andrey Dmitriev, believes that the document prepared by the OSCE ODIHR is weighty. He asserts, “It notes positive aspects in the election campaign, as well as those arousing concern, e.g., the mechanism of formation of electoral commissions. However, we hope that the calculation of votes by these commissions will be objective and fair.”

Undoubtedly, it’s good to receive weighty authoritative assessments from ‘outside’. However, we need to remember the most important aspect: the citizens of Belarus conduct elections primarily for themselves and are interested more than anyone else in them being organised smoothly, in full compliance with the law. We must all take our civil responsibility to vote seriously.

By Marat Orekhov
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