Belarusian authorities bar opposition out from organization of parliamentary elections
The Belarusian authorities have composed territorial and district election commissions of representatives of quangos, pro-government political parties, and government officials with minimal opposition representation. The Belarusian leadership anticipates having full control over the election campaign and its results. The authorities, however, are ready to demonstrate greater transparency in the election process to international observers.
The authorities have formed 110 district and 6149 precinct election commissions, 49 of which outside the country. In seven territorial commissions, 144 persons have been competing for 91 seats and in district - 2014 persons for 1430 seats. On average, the competition ranged from 1.2 persons/seat in the Grodno region to 2 persons/seat in the Mogilev region. Of the overall candidates, the opposition has nominated about 11% in the territorial and 6.7% in the district commissions.
The number of nominees to election commissions from the opposition has somewhat reduced. For instance, this year, opposition parties put forward 150 applications in territorial and district, compared with 199 in 2012 in district commissions only. This could either be due to the overall reduction in the number of activists, or because the opposition has decided to nominate more candidates or to have greater campaigning capacity.
According to human rights defenders, election officials have fine-tuned formal selection procedures. Unlike during previous election campaigns, the selection process for election commission members was more elaborate, in some cases, it included interviews and collegial decisions. Nevertheless, despite all novelties, voting was still a formality. In addition, deputy chairs on ideology from local executive committees are leading many district election commissions. Independent analysts have noted that the composition of election commissions have remained virtually unchanged as compared with the previous presidential election - regardless of more transparent and improved recruitment procedures. That said, the share of opposition representatives in the district election commissions reduced from 3% in 2012 to 1.8% in 2016.
As predicted, among the most common reasons for not selecting applicants from the opposition to the electoral commissions were the administrative record and the lack of positive characteristics from the place of residence or work. In addition to the absence of clear legal selection criteria for election commission members, according to human rights defenders, when considering applicants, officials were clearly more loyal to pro-government candidates.
Exclusion rate for opposition candidates in election commissions remains very high compared with the pro-government contenders - 31.2% at territorial level and 19.4% at the district level.
The total share of political parties representatives (opposition and pro-government) in the election commissions (24.2% in territorial and 13.6% in district commissions) is much smaller than of public associations (51% and 54.3%, respectively).
In addition, CEC head Lydia Yarmoshina promised to come back to the issue of greater transparency during the vote count after the parliamentary elections. Which means, that the vote counting practice widely criticised by domestic and international observers will be preserved during the upcoming parliamentary elections: “the commissions will not demonstrate each ballot while counting. To do this, the law needs to be amended, because the counting procedure is spelled out there”.
Overall, improvements in the formal selection procedures and greater transparency in the selection process has not enhanced the opposition representation in the election commissions. The Belarusian authorities rather aim to hold the upcoming election campaign in compliance with the current practice, using administrative resources in order to ensure the required turnout and support for pro-government candidates.
Image: Jauhien Jerčak, TUT.BY
Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.
The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.
Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.
For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.
Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.
The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.