Belarusian authorities ensure election results with record high turnout during early voting
Election organizers have ensured the voting results and victory of pro-governmental candidates during the early voting: 25% of voters have voted early. In addition, a broad-scale advertising campaign for the early voting aimed to create the illusion of electoral activity, sufficient to deliver the desired results.
Independent observers from the "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections" and "The Right of Choice" campaigns have noted a big difference between the observed turnout during the early voting and that reported by the authorities.
According to independent observers, higher turnout has been marked at almost half of the observed polling stations, especially in the constituencies where the victory of pro-government candidates is particularly questionable. In addition, five days of early voting have allowed the authorities to hide electoral apathy in society and a high degree of absenteeism among voters. In many constituencies in the capital and major cities, early voting results would compensate for the low turnout on the Election Day.
In addition, the authorities have used sophisticated techniques to ensure the voting results, for instance, some voters have voted several times at different polling stations. Amid low interest in the elections among the electorate, carousel voting is likely to aim at creating an impression of high turnout for the independent observers. The election officials have used usual means to stimulate voter turnout, eg organised mass voting of students and state employees, held sales and tasting at the polling stations, and understated registered voters.
Amid economic recession and lively campaigning by opposition candidates, who have appealed to the most topical social issues in a constructive way, early voting has become the key instrument for ensuring the desired voting results for the election authorities in Belarus.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.