On 17 November, Belarus held the election to the House of Representatives. As independent observers have shown, the election was heavily falsified. Violations started with denied registration for many opposition activists and continued with early voting, pressure on citizens, and falsification of the votes.
No miracle happened
According to the Central Electoral Commission, the voter turnout was 77.22%; in the previous election, the turnout was 74,7%. In contrast to the previous elections, no opposition candidates received a seat in the Parliament. However, this year, more alternative candidates than usual took part in the election, including many young activists.
Alana Gebremarya, a candidate from "Moladzevy blok" (Youth Coalition)
Independent observers had restricted access to the electoral process at all stages. They were put far away from the table where electoral commissions counted votes. Many live streams and videos show that access given to the observers was minimal.
Vote counting, Mazyr. Polling station 18, district 42
Several observers were expelled from the polling stations. An independent observer Piotr Markelau was expelled for demanding a vote recount.
Сразу после объявления результатов подсчета бюллетеней, отданных в основной день голосования. За депутата Комаровского — 218, за Василевского — 91, за Stas Shashok — 46, против всех — 13.Балагана и не было бы, если бы мы своими глазами не видели реальное число голосов, отданных за Стаса.При подсчете голосов, каждый член комиссии сначала сделал себе стопку бюллетеней (лицевой стороной вниз, конечно). После этого они начали по одному переворачивать бюллетени и ставить палочку напротив имени кандидата на отдельных листах. И если в урне досрочного голосования уверенно лидировал Комаровский (по понятным причинам), то в урне для голосования в основной день лидерами были Стас и «против всех». Мы видели, что у всех членов комиссии в их результатах подсчета в основной день на этом участке побеждал Стас, за которого отдали голоса несколько сотен избирателей.Как видно на видео, сами члены комиссии не принимают участия в балагане. Вместо этого работают «наблюдатели».
Opublikowany przez Piotra Markiełaŭ Niedziela, 17 listopada 2019
Independent observer Piotr Markelau’s livestream when he was expelled from the polling station.
The election observation initiative The Right to Choose has reported 654 violations of the electoral law. Main violations included restricted access to observation, falsified number of voters. All this significantly increased the turnout.
The OSCE delegation to Belarus, consisting of 400 short-term observers and 30 long-term observers, has not yet published its report but is already concerned with the fraud spotted during the early voting.
The percentage of early voters became 35,7%, which, according to the independent observers, is twice more than in reality. Early voting and pressure on the electorate became one of the traditional violations. Students were instructed their teachers to vote before the election day. One of the voters even reported through social media that she was not allowed to have breakfast in a hospital until she voted.
Traditionally, the election in Belarus was held as a holiday event: concerts, food, alcoholic beverages. It also involved educational institutions in falsifications. One of the examples is when the kindergarten teacher in Brest tried to put numerous ballots folded together in the voting bin and was captured on the video by the independent observer.
Independent observer records an attempt to cast numerous ballots at the early voting in Brest.
Reactions to the election
Comparing to previous years, Lukashenka has commented on the election several times.
“It’s easier for me. They may badmouth me, but I live in a forest behind a fence. And she (Maryna Zubarenka, the girl in Brest who tried to put several ballots in the box – Ed.) walks on the streets. She’s a woman, and people point fingers to her, while she has a family, husband. How does she feel? How should she feel?” said Lukashenka about the incident in Brest.
“If some asshole or jerk starts to attack the voters, he needs his brain to be fixed so that he wouldn’t want to do it anymore,” Lukashenka said expressing his attitude to the active observers when he voted on the election day.
Oppositional candidates don’t believe that the election was fair. Volha Kavalkova, the candidate from the Belarusian Christian Democracy, also points out the importance of the attention of the West.
Volha Kavalkova, a candidate to the Parliament from the Belarusian Christian Democracy
“We welcome the fact that the embassy of the United States begins its work. But a conversation with the European Union is now, in my opinion, not justified. It is an unjustified dialogue since democratic changes in Belarus is not happening… ”.
Ihar Barysau, a candidate from the Belarusian Social Democratic Movement Hramada.
Ihar Barysau, chair of the Belarusian Social Democratic party Hramada, said that one of the reasons why he participated in the election was proving the violations of the electoral law on his own example.
Selling democracy card
During the last election, the two opposition candidates, Hanna Kanapatskaya and Alena Anisim, received a seat in the Parliament. Western countries saw it as an improvement. Thus, some experts expected the election on 17 November to repeat the previous scenario, considering that the two former deputies were somewhat safe for the regime’s status quo.
Andrei Yeliseyeu, political expert from the, East-Center, believes that the chances for the alternative candidates are quite low. However, “few relatively pro-European deputies can be allowed in the Parliament to be used as an additional card in the game with the West”.
Austrian and Belarusian presidents during the press-conference in Vienna.
In the circumstances of the integration package with Russia to be signed on 8 December, Belarus could try to sell the democratization card to the EU that seems to be eager to start negotiations with the regime.
At the same time, it appears that Lukashenka didn’t bet on the election as a bargaining chip. Voting at his polling station on 17 November, Lukashenka said:
“Wake up! Investors don’t care what happens with the Parliament in Belarus; they need a normal investment climate”.
Visit of Makey and the MFA delegation to Stockholm and Lukashenka’s visit to Austria, as well as Swedish MFA’s visit to Minsk on 25 November could have been a sign of EU and Belarus opening the new page. However, in the circumstances of the falsified election, those visits look like a demonstration of power by Lukashenka. In this light, it seems that despite the human rights violations, the EU is ready to forgive election fraud to the Belarusian regime.