Authorities mount repressions leading to further backsliding in terms of human rights and political freedoms

Category status:
- (The situation has deteriorated)
29-05.07.2020
Image by Belapan

By Valeria Kostyugova

Human rights activists have reported over 600 arbitrary detentions. The CEC has rejected numerous signatures submitted by Tsepkala and Babaryka without a justification. Only a little over a month has left for campaigning, which was further restricted by the CEC in terms of limited and remotely located meeting venues in large cities.

100k signatures and signature verification process

Last week, the CEC announced who has collected the required number of signatures for registration as a presidential candidate. Of seven prospective candidates, the CEC said that only six were proved to collect the required number of signatures, Valery Tsepkala being the exception. That said, the CEC rejected most signatures submitted by Babaryka.

The CEC validated 165 744 of 365k signatures submitted by Babaryka; 106,841 signatures of 107k submitted by Dzmitryeu; 146,588 of some 110k submitted by Kanapatskaya; 1,939,572 of some 2 million submitted by Lukashenka; 104 757 of some 110k signatures submitted by Tsikhanouskaya (her team claimed they were unable to submit some 38k signatures due to different reasons); 143,109 signatures of some 106.5k submitted by Cherechen and 75 249 signatures of 160k submitted signatures by Tsepkala.

The fact that prospective candidates have collected the required number of signatures does not automatically mean that they will be on the ballot. They also must comply with the criteria outlined in the electoral code, which the CEC is likely to enforce vigorously.

Campaigning

Street campaigning has been virtually banned. In two-million Minsk, only six venues were approved for meetings with voters at places far away from the major flow of residents, that is, one campaigning place per 300k inhabitants. In Brest, only two campaigning venues were allowed in the outskirts (one campaigning place per 150k inhabitants). In Homiel – one campaigning place per 170k inhabitants. All campaigning venues are far from busy streets and are difficult to reach by public transport. Should many voters be willing to meet with candidates regardless of difficult access, transportation and security issues are likely.

The clampdown

Human rights activists have reported some 680 arbitrary detentions since the beginning of the campaign, 125 people were punished with a total of 1800 days of arrest on administrative charges used for political persecution. 246 people were fined some BYN 190k in total. Political prisoners have grown in number to 22. Last week, detentions and arrests continued: Babaryka’s team member was detained in Minsk, participants in a picket in Brest, two bloggers were forced to leave the country to avoid arrests. Human rights activists believe that the scope of repression has already outweighed that in 2010-2011 (the 2010 presidential elections aftermath).