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What have Belarusians to expect from the Presidential election campaign this autumn

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What have Belarusians to expect from the Presidential election campaign this autumn

The Presidential election campaign has been launched in Belarus — the fifth in the history of the democratic country. Belarusians will be able to express their will on October 11th. The election date has been approved by the national Parliament at the final meeting of the seventh session.

Collection of signatures in the Gomel Region

According to the legislation, a candidate for the post of the President can be put forward only via collecting signatures of voters. For this purpose, an initial group of at least 100 members is needed. In total, the Central Election Commission has allowed eight such groups to participate, including the support team of the current President Alexander Lukashenko. They must each collect 100,000 signatures by August 21st, enabling their contender to gain the official status of a candidate. It’s very difficult to gain such powerful electoral support, especially if there’s no a strong team of like-minded people in the form of a public organisation or a political party that already enjoys a level of trust.

The experts’ opinions are similar: the current President Alexander Lukashenko boasts the greatest chance of victory. His usual sparring partners are the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, Sergei Gaidukevich, the Chairman of the Belarusian Left Party ‘A Just World’, Sergei Kalyakin, and the Chairman of the United Civic Party, Anatoly Lebedko. Of course, the big question is whether they will gain enough votes for a second round. Some representatives of the Belarusian opposition have assessed their chances and are calling on each other to withdraw from participation in the elections, or even to boycott them. However, a prohibition on calling a ballot strike is one of the innovations of the current election campaign. In this respect, the Secretary of the Central Election Commission, Nikolai Lozovik, spoke clearly, “Belarus has joined the CIS Convention on Standards of Democratic Elections, Electoral Rights and Freedoms, according to which the ballot strike is forbidden. Campaign-2015 also differs from the previous campaigns in the order of financing of the candidates’ election activity. In 2010, they had to form private election funds. The Central Election Commission decided to go even further, allowing funds to be allocated to the candidates for the position of the President, as well as to those who register their initiative groups and plan to collect signatures for putting forward a candidate. Moreover, the fund’s size has been tripled to about $105,000. This can be used to buy additional pages in newspapers, time on television, print leaflets and pay for the work of one’s team. Funds of political parties, legal entities and citizens can be used to replenish the fund while anonymous and foreign donations are forbidden. Each candidate will have to specify whether they have a conviction (even if it’s removed from the official records) and which funds they use to live on (if they don’t work anywhere officially).”

Belarus has never restricted the number of international observers. For example, over 1,000 foreign observers have been accredited during the Presidential elections in 2010. No fewer are expected this year. Invitations have been sent to all international organisations, with observers from South Korea first arriving in our country. Moreover, the OSCE ODIHR representatives will be joined by observers from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (where Belarus isn’t represented). The Chairman of the Executive Committee and CIS Executive Secretary, Sergei Lebedev, was appointed the head of the CIS observation mission.

Sociologists have calculated that over 70 percent of Belarusian citizens plan to take part in the Presidential elections. Such high political activity is easily explained: the consequences of the global economic crisis, sharp confrontation between large states, the escalation of tension in Russia-EU relations, and the events in Ukraine worry people and encourage them to use their vote to make a difference.

By Yevgeny Kononov
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