Today early voting in the elections for the House of Representatives of the 5th National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus has started. During the five-day early voting period, the polling stations will be open from 10:00 a.m. till 7:00 p.m. with a break between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. The main voting day in the elections is September 23.
Election commissions registered 363 parliamentary candidates. 11 persons were registered by the Central Election Commission after their complaints against refusal of registration had been considered. Ex-presidential candidate Viktar Tsiareshchanka obtained a favourable settlement only after the Supreme Court had annuled the CEC decision on refusal.
But on September 15 the United Civil Party of Belarus (UPCB) and the Belarusian People’s Front (BPF) announced their candidates’ withdrawal.
Mikalay Lazavik, Secretary of the Central Election Commission, approves of Belarus` early voting procedure. Many European countries and some states in the USA have far longer early voting periods, he said. “Our country has a very short early voting period. But for some reason the mission of the OSCE/ODIHR considers it necessary to shorten or abolish early voting altogether,” Mr. Lazavik said.
“It is not a sin to remind a student of early voting”
The CEC Secretary refused make any forecast on early voting turnout. “I can only say that the Central Election Commission does not recommend speeding early voting up in non-urban areas but appropriate conditions should be provided. Our recommendation is to pay more attention to early voting organising in urban areas where young mobile population prevails, where students and young workers would like to spend their day off in the country: in order to help with agricultural works or simply have a rest,” he said.
Mr. Lazavik said that urging residents of university and factory dormitories to cast their ballots during the early voting period was a normal practice.
Meanwhile, independent observers believe that as ballot boxes stand unguarded at polling stations in the course of early voting period there is an immense source for election violations.
Observers urge to report violations
An active domestic and international observation is expected to be carried out during the parliamentary elections. As many as 682 international observers had been accredited by the central election commission to monitor the elections as of September 17. Domestic observers represent both pro-government and pro-opposition groups.
The pro-democratic Campaign for Fair Elections has pledged to deploy observers at 1000 polling stations during early voting and on the main election day.