2020 Presidential Election. Report on early voting
Observation of the presidential election is carried out by the Belarusian Helsinki Committee and the Human Rights Center “Viasna” in the framework of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections”.
- the restrictions imposed by the CEC on the number of observers at polling stations during early voting made this electoral phase completely non-transparent for independent citizen observation. These restrictions were aimed at disrupting independent observation of this stage, rather than pursuing the declared medical safety measures in connection with the coronavirus pandemic;
- of the 798 observers of “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections” accredited with the polling stations during the early voting period, only 93 (11.6%) had the opportunity to observe voting for certain periods of time that did not cover the entire voting period. Only one representative had the opportunity to observe during all the five days of early voting;
- 62% of all the PEC-accredited observers are representatives of the largest pro-government NGOs, which traditionally have a majority among PEC members (BRSM, Belaya Rus, Women’s Union, Union of Veterans, FTUB trade unions, and the Belarusian Peace Foundation);
- from the first days of early voting, observers from various civic initiatives faced obstacles from PEC members and police officers. Numerous observers were removed from polling stations, deprived of accreditation, and even detained. According to human rights activists, 86 observers were detained during the five days of early voting, including 6 observers of “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections”. 18 observers representing the observation campaign were deprived of accreditation;
- observers documented cases of organized and forced participation in early voting of certain categories of voters (military conscripts, employees of state-owned enterprises, residents of dormitories), as well as facts of inflated turnout as reported by the election commissions;
- a total of 41.7% of voters reportedly took part in the early voting, which is an all-time record for Belarusian presidential elections since 2001. Thus, early voting has become the norm, rather than an exception, as provided by the Electoral Code;
- the practice of early voting remains one of the systemic problems of the electoral process and creates ample opportunities for the use of administrative resources and other manipulations. Considering this, the recommendations of the OSCE ODIHR regarding changes in early voting procedures remain relevant.