If one studies Belarusian Central Election Commission’s Chairperson’s Lidziya Yarmoshyna comments on the changes to the electoral law, they may get the impression that the CEC has rain at seven, fine at eleven.
April 25, 2016: “We will get back to the question of improving the electoral law after the election.”
February 1, 2018: “The reform of the electoral law has been suspended.”
February 23, 2018: “It is highly likely that the steps to reform the electoral law will be taken. There are some proposals.”
October 2, 2018: “It is impossible to reform the electoral law without making amendments to the Constitution.”
For over the past ten years, the Belarusian authorities have been repeatedly made the same old promise to change the electoral law to the nation and international organizations. They do take some measures, but those recommended by the OSCE are set aside. Currently, the issues of economy are much more important than amendments to the Electoral Code, Mrs Yarmoshyna states.
“The existing ruling machine in Belarus has reached such a level that they can hold a referendum in their favour against any economic background. When Alyaksandr Lukashenka polled the Belarusian people about the continuation of his powers and cancellation the limit of presidential terms, the economic situation left much to be desired,” Vital Tsyhankou, a political commentator at Radio Free Europe, said.
Therefore, Lidziya Yarmoshyna’s mentioning a referendum in the context of changes in the law seems to be an attempt to find a reason not to change anything at all, or at least to put the issue on the back burner.
“The Belarusian authorities are absolutely not interested in the changes to the electoral law,” Yury Hubarevich, chairman of the For Freedom movement, believes.
Over the last year, a special interdepartmental group which representatives of the OSCE joined were developing amendments to the electoral law. Indeed, some proposals do require amendments to the Constitution, e.g. the president’s appointment of the head of the CEC and half of the members of the election commission. But it is hard to believe that Lukashenka would agree to withdraw from having such a privilege, experts stress.
“The whole country observes the decrees and edicts by Lukashenka. The Constitution remains on paper, it has no real effect. The country and its officials are subject to one person. That is why Yarmoshyna will voice the things that Lukashenka told her,” Pavel Znavets, a lawyer and former MP, believes.
It should be recalled that in 2012, when the authorities faced the boycott of parliamentary elections by part of the opposition, they adopted necessary changes to prevent boycotts without referendums and years of discussions.