Next presidential, local elections may be held on same day

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The central election commission said the
government could save about $7 million by holding presidential and
parliamentary elections on the same day. Alyaksandr Kazulin, former
presidential candidate released from jail earlier this year, is not eligible to
run in the 2011 presidential race.  

Mikalay Lazavik, secretary of the central
election commission, says the presidential election must be held at least two
months before 8 March 2011, when the incumbent's terms runs out. Local
elections are to be held around the same time with a three-month difference.
The central election commission says this is a good opportunity to save public
funds.

The central election commission has not yet
calculated how much the government can save. Lazavik says that an election
costs about $1 per voter. With about seven million voters in the country the
authorities could save $7 million.

Political analyst Yury Chavusau says that
holding the elections on the same day would give the authorities an advantage
over the opposition. "There is nothing good about it. Many of those
activists who could work for the presidential campaign would focus on local
elections. It will depend how many opposition candidate will be running for
president. Politically, the simultaneous elections would benefit the
authorities."

Lazavik argues that the presidential poll will
help stir up public interest in the local elections. He noted that it would be
easier to organize the elections on the same day rather than one election immediately
after the other.

Asked by Euroradio who may run for president,
Lazavik named Syarhey Haydukevich, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party. He
noted that Kazulin would not be eligible because he has a criminal record.

Kazulin was arrested during an opposition
protest following the 2006 presidential election and sentenced to 5 years and
six months in prison on what was widely regarded as politically motivated
charges. Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka pardoned him earlier this
year.

Uladzimir Labkovich, an election monitor, said
that holding two elections on the same day would not complicate observers' work
if authorities pose no obstacles.

"It would be difficult to combine parliamentary and presidential elections
because of a difference in the composition of election commissions. Election
commissions are the same in local and presidential elections. Therefore, only
goodwill, which the authorities failed to show during the recent parliamentary
elections, could influence the work of observers," Labkovich told Euroradio.

A final decision on election dates will depend on the president who sets the
date of local elections. The House of Representatives sets the date of
presidential elections in Belarus.