Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections

Праваабарончы цэнтр «Вясна» беларускі хельсінкскі камітэт

EU, U.S. regret “no meaningful changes” in Belarus elections

Vote count at a polling station in Minsk. November 17, 2019
Vote count at a polling station in Minsk. November 17, 2019

The November 17 parliamentary elections were a “lost opportunity,” as the vote failed to fully meet international standards, the EU said in a statement released through the office of Maja Kocijancic, Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations.

The EU position is based on the preliminary assessment of the OSCE/ODIHR International Election Observation Mission, which, among other things, criticized Belarus for an “overall disregard for fundamental freedoms of assembly, association and expression.” The OSCE/ODIHR also noted that a “limited amount of campaigning took place, within a restrictive environment that, overall, did not provide for a meaningful or competitive political contest.”

Echoing the EU statement, the European Parliament said the elections were once again “marred by a number of malpractices and shortcomings.”

“Electoral law has been applied selectively, with a view to silencing dissenting voices. A number of opposition figures and independent journalists have been discouraged by the biased application of the legislation on slander against public officials,” it said.

The EP also deplored the fact that it was not invited to observe the elections.

“We regret that alternative voices will not be represented in parliament,” the U.S. Secretary of State said in a press statement.

“Serious questions remained with respect to obstacles to party registration, deregistration of candidates, the integrity of the early voting process, non-transparent and non-verifiable vote tabulation, non-pluralistic election commissions, criminal sanctions for defamation, and a restrictive media environment and legal framework,” the statement said.

Both Europe and the U.S. note the absence of “meaningful changes” to the electoral process as recommended by the OSCE/ODIHR and the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission. In view of the presidential elections of 2020, it is crucial the Belarusian authorities resume work on comprehensive electoral reform without delay, they stressed.