2008 02/10

Vasil Palakou (Homiel)Immediately after the results of the election were made public, it became clear that there was no use hoping for any changes. The authorities’ flirting with Europe could have ruined the plans of the pro-democratic coalition, but the actual state of affairs was the evidence of the government’s unwillingness to tolerate any democratic reform of the election procedures.

Even the release of the Belarusian political prisoners was not ideal in terms of legal procedures, which is another evidence of the authorities’ contempt of legislation regulations in general, let alone their compliance with the universally recognized democratic standards. Still, everybody kept their fingers crossed…

The pre-election apathy

Belarusians, obsessed with their daily problems, must have been unconscious of an election going on, or if they did notice it, they just played it cool. They cannot have been completely unaware of the election, but they did not associate it with their private life. The authorities, to give the devil his due, managed to completely disincline the people towards elections, by staging a whole series of shows which they called fair and democratic elections.

As for the election campaign itself, very few people took the trouble to come up to the stand and read the candidates’ manifestoes. The candidates had to speak before a handful of people.

Having distributed thousands of leaflets that advised staying in on the day of the election, I was expecting a storm of calls by enraged voters. However, there was not any storm at all, just a couple of calls.

The voting

The electoral code provides for an observation opportunity. In reality, observers are only allowed to be present at the polling station and get familiarized with the final records. One can draw up a violation report, but it is most likely to end up in a litter box.

Observers are also allowed to be present in the room where the counting of votes is done, i.e. standing several meters away from the table and watch the backs of the commission members leaning over the ballots.

The only thing they can do is evaluate the actual number of voters that appeared at the polling station. Such stations are called control ones, for one can control the overall information on the activity of voters and the scale of falsifications.

This time, there were 53 control polling stations in the 12 constituencies of Homel region. According to the data provided by observers, only 5 of 12 constituencies showed a positive turnout of more than 50% voters appearing at the polling stations. The rest of them showed 35-40% activity.

The turnout at constituency #34 was extremely typical of the overall situation – there none of the 11 control polling stations was visited by more than 50% of voters. At two of them the election was declared invalid.

It was at these very polling stations where the pro-government candidates got the least number of votes: 27.8% — station #29 and 30.8 — station#30. For overall statistics on the progress of the voting within the constituency see Table.

Even the official figures were relatively modest: 57.1% turnout. This must be the lowest turnout across Belarus.

Nonsense

It would not be absolutely fair to say that the election was absolutely useless for the authorities, the opposition or independent politicians.

On the one hand, it will be difficult for opposition leaders who got 10-16% of votes to prove their supporters that their victory had been ‘stolen’, when several United Pro-Demosratic Forces candidates received over 30% of votes.

On the other hand, that is what was expected. The only thing that could be a surprise was a couple of opposition candidates being ‘allowed’ to go to Parliament. But the authorities would not tolerate that: how could they then explain the people that the Belarusian opposition was not so weak as it had been labeled for years?

So it would be better to say that there are no results at all: neither for the state, nor for the opposition. The status quo is still preserved…

No news on the Eastern Front

The minor changes of the election procedures could not reform the totalitarian reputation of Belarus, which is not ready for actual democratic changes. Flirting with the West, the East does not forget about the 2010 presidential election and keeps its powder dry…

Vasil Paliakou

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