CIS observers praise presidential campaign in Belarus


The CIS observation mission believes that the presidential election campaign in Belarus is "calm, well-organized and within regulations," Vera Yakubovskaya, spokesperson for the CIS Executive Committee told reporters in Minsk on December 3, commenting on the mission's intermediate report, BelaPAN said.

The mission approves of the measures that have been taken by the government and the central election commission to ensure a free and democratic election, Ms. Yakubovskaya said.

Territorial election commissions were formed in accordance with the Electoral Code, and many candidates for membership were present at meetings held to decide on membership applications, she said.

There are representatives of seven political parties and five non-governmental organizations on territorial election commissions and of 10 parties and five NGOs on precinct election commissions, Ms. Yakubovskaya said. Opposition parties are represented on territorial and precinct election commissions more broadly than before, she said.

The mission notes that an "efficient system" for the collection of ballot-access signatures has been established and that most nomination groups gathered signatures without violating requirements of the Electoral Code.

However, the central election commission issued an official warning to the nomination group of Uladzimir Nyaklyayew for the collection of ballot-access signatures by people who were not members of the group and by people under 18 years of age, the mission says.

According to the report, the presidential candidates have access to the state media and equal campaigning opportunities.

For the first time in Belarus' history, the presidential candidates have been allowed to hold television and radio debates and to set up campaigns funds to pay for, among other things, additional television and radio airtime as well as newspaper and magazine ads, Ms. Yakubovskaya said.

Although the candidates are campaigning rather actively and generally abiding by regulations, the mission does mention several violations of regulations during the campaign stage, Ms. Yakubovskaya said.

In Smalyavichy, for instance, campaigners for Yaraslaw Ramanchuk were distributing flyers printed abroad in violation of the Electoral Code. The mission also notes that the Prosecutor General's Office issued official warnings to candidates Vital Rymashewski and Mikalay Statkevich for their calls to attend an unsanctioned meeting with presidential candidates in Minsk's downtown Kastrychnitskaya Square on November 24.

According to the report, as of November 25, the Prosecutor General's Office had received 59 complaints about violations of electoral regulations. The Office dismissed some of the complaints as unfounded and explained to other complainants that they had the right to file lawsuits. Courts have rejected 85 of the 113 suits filed over the formation of election commissions. No criminal cases have been instituted over the denial of voters' rights or other violations of electoral regulations.

According to the report, the interior ministry has notified the mission of 28 cases in which electoral regulation were violated.

The central election commission reportedly received 375 written applications from citizens between September 14 and November 25, including 104 that were not related to the presidential election and 111 complaints concerning the registration and activities of nomination groups, the registration of candidates and their authorized representatives, the accreditation of observers, electioneering and the formation of election commissions.

Anatoly Nebogatov, a former Russian ambassador to the Philippines who is a CIS observer in the Vitsyebsk region, said that the mission's conclusions coincided with his own. Mr. Nebogatov said that he had seen elections in Southeast Asia and was therefore able to make comparisons.

The central election commission has already accredited 41 long-term observers and 208 short-term observers.

There will be 350 people on the mission on December 19, the main polling day, including representatives of almost all CIS countries, the CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Belarusian-Russian Union State and a number of other organizations.