Reelection cements Lukashenko’s authoritarian rule | Den norske Helsingforskomité

Re-election cements Lukashenko’s authoritarian rule

Re-election cements Lukashenko’s authoritarian rule

Yesterday’s presidential election in Belarus gave no surprises in the reelection of Alexander Lukashenko to his fifth term as the country’s authoritarian president. With no real competition, control over administrative resources and massive coercion and pressure to participate in early voting, the election process gave the incumbent leader a simple walk-over.

According to preliminary results, Alexander Lukashenko got 83.49%, the main oppositional contender Tatsiana Karatkevich — 4.42%, Sergei Gaidukevich — 3.32% and Nikolai Ulakhovich — 1.67%. The turnout was a staggering 86.75%.

-This presidential election in Belarus is the first in a decade without massive demonstrations, which shows us to which extent Lukashenko has gained control over society, Secretary General Bjørn Engesland says. –Remember the disasters in 2006 and in 2010, when tens of thousands came out to protest against the rigged elections, and when Lukashenko answered with mass arrests and harsh repercussions against the entire civil society.

For a decade now, Lukashenko has fought a war against independent media and civil society organisations. In 2010, all candidates in opposition to Lukashenko were jailed for a shorter or longer time, the last one, Mikalay Statkevich was released only weeks before these elections. This time, no central leaders of the opposition were on the ballot.

– On a positive note, we are of course happy that Belarus no longer has political prisoners, and that we have not seen the harassment of election campaigners and of journalists as has been the habit during previous elections. But I underline that there are no conditions for holding fair elections in Belarus today, Engesland continues.

During the pre-election period, local observers Viasna and Belarusian Helsinki Committee have reported that the election commissions were formed with virtually no participation from opposition forces, efficiently giving the authorities control over the entire election process.

The independent Belarusian association for journalists BAJ, who monitored the election campaign, concludes there was no real campaign. Lukashenko did not really participate, and other candidates had very little visibility both in the media and by other methods of campaigning. State media gave only minimum access to the candidates challenging Lukashenko.

Early voting
The local observers also underline the abuse of the early voting. Although it can only be used when the voter is unable to vote in own district on election day, as many as 36% of the voters voted early, which is the highest per cent compared to the previous presidential campaigns. Early voting has become a norm, which does not meet the requirements of the Electoral Code.

- During the observation of early voting, numerous cases of coercion and pressure of citizens to participate in early voting by the administration of enterprises and universities. It repeated the negative practices of previous election campaigns; coercion to early voting has become an efficient means for exercising control over the election result. The very high official turn-out figure can possibly be explained by this control, the Belarusians’ general low interest in this election is certainly not the reason.

Yesterday, on election day, many incidents have been reported by observers, including lacking transparency during the counting of the votes. However, we do not have the full picture of these events at this point.

Update 13.10.2015: Please find link to the preliminary findings of domestic observers Viasna and Belarusian Helsinki Committte here.