The ongoing campaigning: sweeping censorship, democratic candidates decrease in number, voter interest remains low
Last week, the ongoing parliamentary campaign became visible in Minsk due to candidates’ posters and enhanced coverage of campaigning candidates, including the oppositional ones, in independent media. The election authorities have taken ten oppositional candidates off the race.
Only two weeks before election day, the ongoing parliamentary has become visible in Belarus. In fact, the campaigning stage, which is short anyway, was halved by the CEC and local authorities. For instance, many candidates reported that the accounts they had opened often failed to receive funds and that they had encountered significant obstacles when printing campaign materials.
The authorities further impose sweeping censorship on campaigning – ten oppositional candidates were taken off the race, including Kazlou, an activist of European Belarus; and at least ten more were given formal notice. Some loyal candidates withdrew from elections themselves. In total, by November 9th, 2019, 38 candidates left the race.
TV appeals by democratic candidates Kazlou, blogger Maslouski and others were never broadcasted, and two appeals were taken off the air. State-controlled newspapers refused to publish programmes of 8 democratic candidates. TV debates, envisaged by the election legislation, never took place in many districts due to the reluctance of pro-government and loyal candidates to participate in them; debates, which took place in 12 districts, are available on the Internet.
On November 8th, urged by most popular Belarusian blogger, NEXTA, 13 candidates held a joint rally at the Freedom Square, including Klishevich supported by the Belarusian Republican Youth Union, current MPs Saiganava, Gaiduk, Supreme Court judges Lyubetskaya, Kirilenkau, and Malatounik, supported by Belaya Rus quango and opposition candidates, activists of Eurobelarus Bandarenka, Savich, Chyhir, Talsty, blogger Maslouski and Youth bloc candidates Karaulau and Krasnakutsky. In addition, some 500 voters participated in the event. The state news agency, BelTA, reported about a massive election picket held in the Freedom Square but mentioned only loyal candidates.
Both loyal and opposition candidates face low voter interest in the elections. Full house at candidates’ meetings with voters was only ensured when a meeting took place at a large enterprise with an employee card ID system. Very few voters came to other meetings at polling stations – ten in the best-case scenario. Meanwhile, street pickets appear to be more popular among the population.
So far, the 2019 parliamentary elections feature high activity and greater diversity of political actors, extremely low voter interest and a rigid framework for the electoral activity enforced by the state.