Belarusian civil society call for transparent vote-counting during the upcoming parliamentary elections
Minsk, 16 July. Belarusian civil society calls for transparent vote-counting during the parliamentary elections on September 23rd 2012. This proposal was stated by Yuliya Slutskaya, director of Solidarity with Belarus Information Office based in Warsaw, at an OSCE Human Dimension Meeting which took place on 12-13 June in Vienna.
In an interview with BelaPAN (an independent Belarusian news agency), Slutskaya stated that she had not planned to take part in the event. ‘Viktor Kornienko (coordinator of the Free Elections campaign – BelaPAN) should have been here. When it became known that he was not allowed to leave the country, and that no other representative of Belarusian civil society would be present, our office received an invitation from the U.S. delegation to the OSCE to participate so that the voice of Belarusian civil society could be heard’ she said.
Slutskaya emphasized ‘If the U.S. delegation had not invited me, then only Lidia Ermoshina (head of Belarus’ election committee) would have presented an opinion on the Belarusian elections. But the format of the event entails the presence of two sides from all post-Soviet countries – on the one hand, representatives of central election committees, and on the hand, civil society who are involved in election observation.
There had been a strange distortion regarding Belarus, Slutskaya commented. While Ermoshina (who is on the EU travel ban list – BelaPAN) had received a visa and travelled, representatives of Belarusian civil society had not been allowed out of the country.
Slutskaya also noted that while the organization which she heads does not deal with election observation, she had consulted all those who had made preparations for the Vienna meeting on receiving the invitation.
‘The main message which they asked me to bring was that Belarusian society calls for vote-counting during elections to be transparent’ said Slutskaya. She explained that this means ‘a very clear counting procedure in which each ballot is shown to observers’. ‘This is a very simple mechanism which is understandable to people and with which it is hard to argue’ emphasized Slutskaya.
She noted that, depending on the size of a polling station, there may be around three thousand voters and 12-15 members of the electoral commission. ‘If the turnout is around 70%, that means there will be around 2-2.1 thousand bulletins which are counted at the polling station, said Slutskaya. ‘We estimate that showing each ballot takes five seconds, which comes to three hours. Three hours is the price of trust toward Belarusian elections. It’s not a high price’.
Furthermore, emphasized Slutskaya, for this kind of vote-counting there is no need to change legislation. ‘This is purely about political will’ she stated. ‘If you say that you want changes to legislation, people don’t understand. But if you say that you merely want each ballot to be displayed to observers while being counted, then this is clear for everyone. Imagine that today the mechanism for counting votes is not mentioned either in the Election Code, or in clarifications from the Central Election Committee, or in preparation materials for members of electoral commissions. And when each of these 12-15 commission members count their piles and give a figure to the commission head, no quantity of observers, not even web cameras in the stations, can count the votes transparently.
Slutskaya also noted that apart from transparent vote-counting procedures, civil society also proposes guaranteeing representation of the opposition at polling stations, limiting early voting and guaranteeing the rights of observers which are registered in various statutes, but de-facto are not fulfilled.