Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections

Праваабарончы цэнтр «Вясна» беларускі хельсінкскі камітэт

Presidential election set for August 9

The House of Representatives, Belarusian Parliament’s lower chamber, has set a date for the presidential election today, the government-run BelTA news agency said. The vote will be held on August 9.

Central Election Commission chairwoman Lidziya Yarmoshyna said at the session that the presidential election would be held in “very special conditions.”

“It [the election] will be very different from the previous presidential elections,” Yarmoshyna said.

The changes are expected to affect all electoral participants. For example, signature collectors will be required to follow the recommendations of the Ministry of Health Care, all of whom must be provided with personal protective equipment.

Observers, representatives of parties and NGOs will not be allowed to attend meetings of local executive authorities convened to consider election-related issues.

“However, the executive bodies should livestream such meetings or post recorded videos on their Internet pages,” CEC head said.

She added that observers would be obliged to follow the recommendations of the Ministry of Health Care on social distancing and to ensure they wear PPE. Yarmoshyna says the new measures will so far apply to domestic monitors. The electoral authorities have not yet decided whether international observers will come to Belarus for the August election.

Meanwhile, the Central Election Commission rejected human rights defenders’ proposals to adjust electoral procedures to meet COVID-19 restrictions. The CEC said there is “too little time to take the proposed steps.”

Among other things, domestic observers, members of the Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections initiative, suggested that the authorities allowed remote signature collecting to support candidates’ nominations.

The CEC also turned down a move to introduce electronic communication on electoral issues.

According to Uladzimir Labkovich, coordinator of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections”, the reply only goes to show that the Belarusian authorities have chosen to completely disregard safety standards.

“The interests of millions of Belarusian citizens will not be taken into account. All they are thinking about is legitimizing their powers as soon as possible. In fact, officials are busy with their personal safety. And what we proposed could minimize the consequences of this pandemic.

Belarus has shocked the rest of the world with its intentions to hold a Victory Day parade in the middle of a pandemic. And now the election, too. While many countries have chosen a different path. For example, Poland, France, and Armenia postponed their elections,” Labkovich said.

“Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections”