Presidential election campaign remains largely invisible, OSCE/ODIHR observation mission says in interim report
Summary of the report:
On 30 June, the House of Representatives called the presidential election for 11 October. The president is elected for a five-year term. If no candidate wins an absolute majority in the first round, a second round between the top two candidates is held within two weeks. The incumbent president has held the office since 1994 and is standing as a candidate.
The election is primarily regulated by the Constitution and the Electoral Code. After the 2012 parliamentary elections, a few amendments were introduced, mostly concerning media and campaign finance. Despite welcome post-electoral engagement, these amendments did not address key OSCE/ODIHR recommendations.
The three-tiered election administration, headed by the Central Election Commission (CEC), has met all legal deadlines to date. Members to the territorial and precinct election commissions (PECs) were also appointed within the deadlines. Nominees of independent organizations and opposition parties have largely been denied appointments to election commissions.
Citizens who are 18 years old by election day and reside within an election precinct have the right to vote. Voter lists are prepared for each election by PECs based on information provided by local authorities. There is no unified voter list and, so far, the CEC has not published the total number of preliminary registered voters. Voters may be included on the voter list prior to and on election day.
Belarus-born citizens above the age of 35 with a permanent residence in the country for the last ten years are eligible to stand as candidates. The CEC registered eight initiative groups to collect signatures in support of prospective candidates. On 10 September, the CEC registered four presidential candidates. For the first time, a woman candidate is standing for the presidency.
The election campaign officially commenced on 10 September and is largely invisible. Several former presidential candidates raised concerns about the candidate registration process.
In a positive step, after several political prisoners were released in 2014, the President pardoned a further six in August 2015, including a former presidential candidate. Another former presidential candidate, who returned from abroad on 8 September, remains under investigation for his alleged participation in the post-election protests in 2010.
State-owned outlets dominate the media landscape; however, some limited independent sources of information are available online. Free airtime on state media, allocated on an equal basis to all candidates, commenced on 14 September. A television debate among the candidates is scheduled for 3 October.
A complaint may be lodged to election commissions, the courts or the General Prosecutor; however, there are limitations on who can lodge a complaint, depending on the issue. Several decisions of election commissions, including on the final results may not be challenged. As of 11 September, some 168 complaints were filed, mostly alleging violations during the signature collection process and in the formation of election commissions.
The Russian side is grateful to Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko for his decision to go to Russia as the visit after the presidential election, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Russia to Belarus Alexander Surikov said in an interview with the STV channel, BelTA has learned.
“We are grateful for this decision,” the Ambassador said.