Belarusian authorities aim to restrict candidates activity

August 24, 2016 17:56

Despite the holiday season, political activity has boosted in Belarusian society, which prompted the authorities to downsize potential parliamentary candidates. Opposition candidates have attracted public attention with bright performances during the debates on public television. The government is likely to continue to narrow down the campaigning framework for the opposition candidates.

CEC head Lidziya Yarmoshyna told the Belarus-1 TV channel that some candidates’ activity was verging on violation of the law.

Candidates to the parliament have reduced in number due to withdrawals by pro-government party representatives and non-party candidates, who backed up leading nomenclature candidates. Some candidates from the opposition were also forced to withdraw from the parliamentary race, most likely, due to the increased pressure from the authorities. However, in order to demonstrate to western observes some improvements in the electoral process the Belarusian authorities have granted registration to some opposition candidates after court proceedings.

Central Election Commission head Yarmoshina has publicly instructed local election organisers to ensure a more strict regulation of oppositional candidates’ activity. The authorities have stepped up interventions in campaigns of opposition candidates and introduced more restrictions on their activities.

The Belarusian state TV Company has cancelled the online broadcast of the debates and banned video sharing from the debates on the internet in order to reduce public response to bright performances by some opposition candidates. That said, during previous election campaigns, parliamentary in 2012 and presidential in 2015, the state TV posted videos of the debates and addresses by candidates, online under a common license. In 2016, the authorities decided to abandon this practice with reference to the Electoral Code. Most likely, the authorities took a notice of the increased influence of the ‘new media’ and realised that their audiences had reduced, in particular among voters soured by the authorities’ current policies.

The authorities are likely to continue to screen candidates, and withdraw doubles from nomenclature and remove some headline-making opposition candidates. 

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Following crackdown and arrests of participants in the spring protests, the authorities resumed arrests as punishment for participating in street protests in addition to fines, which for some time were the only punishment for political activity. On September 22nd, 2017, the riot police detained the Belarusian National Congress leader Nikolai Statkevich, the opposition politician was placed in detention centre on Akrestin street. On the same day, after serving seven days of arrest, another BNC leader, Vladimir Neklyaev, was released. He was sentenced for organising a street protest on September 8th against the West-2017 exercises. Other participants in the protest have been fined too. The authorities are likely to continue to use fines and arrests against political activists to punish for their protest activity.