Having observed both the early voting and the election day of the parliamentary elections in Belarus, the project participants noted facts of psychological pressure on independent observers, cases of them being groundlessly expelled from polling stations, attempts of almost twofold over-estimation of turnout and a lack of transparent vote-count at almost all precincts.
Watch the press conference video (25th September 2012)
Following trends were outlined by the Election Observation: Theory and Practice (EOTP) representatives who monitored approximately 60 polling stations at 35 electoral districts in Belarus as stationary observers:
1. Numerous cases of divergence on turnout figures between the estimations by the observers and by the precinct electoral commissions (PECs). 90 per cent of project participants noted facts of turnout over-estimation, the approximate difference between their calculations and commissions’ official figures being 173 per cent. Also, cases of uprating the number of voters voting at home were mentioned. Some PECs claimed inadequately high rates of home voting.
2. In many cases, the vote-count cannot be called neither open nor transparent. The observers were not allowed to see the content of ballots at 78 per cent of polling stations monitored. In odds with the Electoral Code, the ballots from different ballot boxes were not counted separately at several locations. The approximate duration of the vote-count by PECs was 63 minutes. The EOTP observers submitted 12 complaints on the vote-count procedures.
3. During the early voting, the most significant violations were exemplified by forced voting and group voting. The project members noted 10 cases of forced voting. Sometimes voters openly stated to the commissions that they were made come to the polling station against their wishes. At some polling stations, voting students were supervised by group mentors. In total, 23 per cent of project participants saw voters coming in groups during the early voting.
20 per cent of the EOTP observers also reported psychological pressure from the PECs and limitations of their mobility at the polling stations during the early voting. On the voting day, three project participants were expelled dozens of minutes before the vote-count, having monitored their polling stations throughout all the early voting days.
4. According to the observers, the polling stations were properly equipped in terms of information about the candidates, voting cabins, space for observers, etc. The electoral procedures, e.g. sealing the ballot boxes, registration of observers, were respected during the opening. As a rule, the secrecy of vote was also properly guaranteed.
However, just as during the local and presidential elections in 2010, observers were not allowed to take pictures at the polling stations. It was almost impossible to obtain information on the number of voters who had voted and home-voting. Sometimes, the commissions did not provide information on turnout during the voting day.
Obstacles for the project as a whole and facts of pressure on observers continued after the election day. Some 25 project participants and coordinators were detained in Minsk on Monday, 24 September, at a debriefing location. They were delivered to the police, fingerprinted and released after three hours without a formal record. Such acts of intimidation can create a chilling effect on the project newcomers in the future.
The final report of the EOTP observation mission will be published on www.eotp.info. The preliminary findings are to be presented at the press-conference at the Belarusian Human Rights House in exile in Vilnius on 25 September at 1 pm.
For more information on common violations identified by the project participants, please visit our website: www.eotp.info.
During the current campaing, the EOTP focused on improving the image of an observer and reaching out to young people in order to encourage them to watch the polls.
The “Election Observation: Theory and Practice” project promotes the idea of poll-watching and application of foreign experience of election observation in Belarus. The project is jointly implemented by Belarus Watch, the European Humanities University and the Belarusian Human Rights House in exile in Vilnius.