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'Honest People' volunteers not allowed to count votes at Belarus election

Voting /

In 2020, Belarusians who previously were not interested in politics suddenly believed that they could be allowed to count the votes at the August 9 presidential election in Belarus. Two thousand volunteers from the Honest People campaign applied to become members of election commissions across the country.

Reliability and literacy

On June 23, regional administrative bodies started considering their applications. The grassroots nominees "out of the people" were massively denied registration. And only the "politically trustworthy" and the "politically literate" - real quotations from the characteristics of PEC members verified by time and previous elections - were allowed access to the ballot papers.

The local administrations held meetings were held all over the country. Under the pretext of the coronavirus epidemic, viewers were not allowed to see the officials in person. But there were broadcasts on YouTube.

In one of the video streams, we saw smart-looking people in the Frunzenski district of Minsk raising their hands over and over again. A person from some obscure party is nominated: everyone is in favor. Another one of the kind: all are in favor again. A person is nominated by signature collection and wham: suddenly everyone is against!

"I felt like I was at an art-house performance."

"They didn't clear me for the election commission. "It was predictable, but there's still some bad feeling left. Somehow it's hard, dreary, disgusting inside," Volha Berasniova, a volunteer of "Honest People" says, frustrated. "Why did I do it? I knew that I would feel bad in the end. In short: they do not need honest people in the commission. The executive committee is fine with the status quo."

The meeting started at 7:30 am. The voting for each precinct election commission was done separately. If there were more applications than the quota of the polling station, they voted separately for each application. Specifically, they made a remark on my application that I was not registered at my residence address. Although it is not an obligatory condition. 

There were people in the room who spoke in support of their nominees, but they spoke for some reason after people had already been elected to the commission. Where's the logic? They were representatives of the Belaya Rus party, the Women's Union. They spoke in a stilted manner: we characterize them as a conscientious worker, a socially active responsible person who enjoys authority with the team... I felt like I was at some art house performance, watching the people on stage, and not understanding what was going on. Either they played badly or I just didn't understand the idea. I don't want to be involved in something like this anymore. It's very exhausting.

Are you sure you're a human rights activist?

They didn't let Anastasia Labyonak from Minsk into the PEC:

"My application was rejected. Two people were "in favor," while seven were against. My statement from the citizens was the only one at the station, all the others were from parties and organizations. I presented all my diplomas, CV, but it was useless. On what grounds was I rejected? Nothing was explained. No grounds. I will continue to apply to be an observer".

The Honest People Campaign /

In Valozhyn, the Belarusian musician and downshifter Verasen was refused to participate in the PEC without any explanation: "I am not getting into the election commission. The local executive committee unanimously voted against me". 

According to some comments, Raman Kisliak, human rights defender, was rejected for the election commission in Brest: "There is no position of "human rights defender" in the classifier... The data is recognized as unreliable... He is not recommended to be included in the commission... Unanimously against".

They have a gut feeling for "Honest People"

The Electoral Code does not specify the reasons for denying registration to citizens who are nominated to PEC. Article 34 says that "as a rule, the bodies forming the commission shall form at least one-third of its members from representatives of political parties and other public associations".

In other words, those who raise their hands are serious people from the executive committee and are not obliged to explain anything to anyone. Convenient, isn't it? And somehow it just happens by accident that they don't like all "Honest People". They feel the Honest People. It makes it possible for them to spot a volunteer and not let them into the precinct election commissions.

Those who were not allowed to count the votes were able to appeal against the refusal in court within three days. Or they can become observers. But we know that's a different story. It's one thing to count the ballots yourself. And it's quite another thing to look at it from the back of "literate" and "reliable" people.