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.
During searches of social and "green" activists and anarchists, law enforcement has seized computers, mobile phones and publications. The authorities have also exerted additional pressure on supporters of unauthorized street protests and independent lawyers, who represented defendants in the White Legion case. The security services have stepped up the persecution of opponents before the street protests announced by the opposition. Apparently, the Belarusian authorities aspire that participants in street protests would reduce in number and that the low interest of the population to socio-political agenda before the local election campaign would retain.