Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections

Праваабарончы цэнтр «Вясна» беларускі хельсінкскі камітэт

‘Political qualities’ to prevail when selecting candidates to precinct elections commissions

Pavel Sapelka
Pavel Sapelka

The current election campaign is no exception: the election commissions are likely to have only loyal members. Lawyer Pavel Sapelka has commented on the recent response by the CEC head to his proposal to abandon such criteria ‘political qualities’ in the selection of members of the PECs.

Pavel Sapelka, an analyst of the campaign "Human Rights Defenders For Free Elections", sent his proposals to Lidziya Yarmoshyna on the eve of one of the election milestones, the formation of precinct election commission. On behalf of the campaign, Sapelka proposed to remove from the CEC’s decision No. 18 the notion of ‘political quality’, so that this criterion could not influence the number of representative of the opposition in the commissions, as it was during the formation of territorial and district election commissions.

In her answer to the appeal, the CEC head said, “The Central Election Commission sees no reasons to adjust the said decision and to remove the term of ‘political quality’ from it, which, in your opinion, provokes different interpretations.” Lidziya Yarmoshyna further shares her personal opinion: “The Resolution of the Central Election Commission, which obliges the authorities in charge of forming the electoral commission to carry out this procedure in an open and transparent manner and based on the discussion of applicants for the commissions, does not limit the participants in these discussions in the approach to assessment of both business and political qualities of these individuals.”

Representatives of the independent monitoring campaign had not expected a different reply, says Pavel Sapelka in his comment on the answer:

“From elections to elections, electoral commissions are formed from a number of those who are loyal to the current government. And this year’s election to the House of Representatives is not to be an exception.”

It should be noted that in order to secure a truly pluralistic composition of election commissions in Belarus the OSCE ODIHR recommended “to consider the possibility of reviewing the system of nominating and appointing members of the election commissions and the inclusion of nominated members of the commissions at all levels.” Later, human rights activists suggested that the CEC should implement this recommendation by “clarifying Article 34 of the Electoral Code, which should provide for the criteria of inclusion of candidates in the electoral commissions, which would first of all allow to include representative of the political parties in the commissions as the key electoral actors.”

However, Decree No. 18 concerning the formation of election commission, the CEC implemented the defenders’ proposals exactly up to the second comma. It provided for the criteria for inclusion of candidates in the electoral commissions.

The criterion of ‘political qualities’ has been repeatedly criticized by domestic observers, since, according to the campaign experts, it is important that all bodies in charge of forming election commissions should clearly and consistently understand the notion. Meanwhile, the observation of the formation of the DECs and the TECs confirmed that the term was understood differently. It was the assessment of the nominees’ political views that resulted in the politically motivated and selective approach to rejecting the applications of certain persons, human rights activists say, urging the election officials to remove the criterion that does not have an explanation in the electoral legislation.

The campaign "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections" is a non-partisan initiative and does not intend to support political parties and politicians. The entire election process is assessed solely on the basis of the principles of free, democratic and transparent elections, which can enable the people of Belarus to fully exercise their constitutional right to participate in the government of the country.