Many OSCE commitments on citizen’s democratic rights to associate, to stand as candidates and to express themselves freely were not respected in yesterday’s parliamentary elections in Belarus, concluded the international observers from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA).
The elections were not administered in an impartial manner and the complaints and appeals process did not guarantee effective remedy, the observers found.
“This election was not competitive from the start,” said Matteo Mecacci, Special Co-ordinator, who led the short-term OSCE observer mission. “A free election depends on people being free to speak, organize and run for office, and we didn’t see that in this campaign. We stand ready to work with Belarus to take the steps forward that are in our common interest.”
“The lack of neutrality and impartiality on the part of election commissions severely undermines public confidence in the process,” said Antonio Milošoski, Head of the OSCE/ODIHR long-term election observation mission. “Citizens should feel confident that their votes are counted as cast, but the lack of proper counting procedures or ways for observers to verify the results raises serious concerns.”
While there was an increase in the number of candidates put forward by parties, prominent political figures who might have played a role remained in prison or were not eligible to register because of their criminal record. Arbitrary administrative decisions also constrained the field of contestants, limiting voters’ choices, observers say.
European Parliament President Martin Schulz made the following statement following parliamentary elections in Belarus:
“I deeply regret that parliamentary elections in Belarus have yet again failed to meet international standards of fair and transparent polls. With opposition leaders remaining imprisoned, with some opposition candidates denied registration, with the people’s voice silenced, it was a mockery of a democratic ballot.
Elections were marred by limitations on access to media, obstacles for the international observers to monitor the vote count and reports about pressure on different groups of voters. Belarus continues on a non-democratic path, depriving its citizens of civic rights and from reaping the benefits of closer engagement with the European Union.
I regret that in this situation the European Parliament will not be able to restore official ties with the Belarusian parliament. I have long lost the illusions about the good will of the Belarusian leadership to commit to democratic reforms.
The European Union should finally devise an effective strategy how to deal with Belarus – meaning how to firmly respond to flagrant abuses of human rights and rule of law and how to support the Belarusian people and their struggling civil society.”