Aleh Hulak: Observers are limited in their rights
The Electoral Code of Belarus is as progressive as Stalin’s constitution. While it seems good on paper, many provisions do not work in reality, maintain numerous observers from Belarusian political parties and non-governmental organizations. At the same time, election observers from CIS countries see no problem with monitoring the polls in Belarus. Who is telling the truth? Aleh Hulak, lawyer and the chairman of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, shares his views on this situation.
“The rights and obligations of an observer are stipulated in the Electoral Code which was passed as far back as in 1999. We, human rights activists and lawyers, believe that if something is not banned, we have the right to do it. With this approach, the rights of an observer are broad. He or she should be able to see and do a lot. But according to the Central Elections Commission, observers are only entitled to being present at the polls without actually seeing them. I beg your pardon but observers normally can see only the backs of the members of electoral commissions. Various violations can take place at various stages of the electoral process, beginning from the formation of electoral commissions. Definitely, most violations are detected during the vote count. Observers have the right to pose questions to the chairman of election commission and make proposals. But if a commission decides that an observer is interfering with its operation, this observer can be removed from the polling station. Now that nomination groups have been formed, observers are asking to get access to nomination groups. But constituency commissions say: No, you are not allowed to do it”.
According to Ales Hulak, the Belarusian Helsinki Committee has attempted to explain the Central Elections Commission that the way the rights of observers are understood is illegal and does not contribute to an open and transparent electoral process. However, the officials at the Central Elections Commission believe they act in accordance with the Electoral Code.