CEC chair: Changes in electoral laws require Constitutional amendments

Belarus' Central Election Commission chairperson Lidziya Yarmoshyna. Photo: Euroradio
Belarus' Central Election Commission chairperson Lidziya Yarmoshyna. Photo: Euroradio

Euroradio has met with Central Election Commission (CEC) chairperson Lidziya Yarmoshyna for a short interview about possible changes in Belarus' electoral laws.  She explains why the changes proposed by the OSCE/ODIHR have not been added to the Election Code and whether it is possible to bring up a political elite in the current political system in Belarus.

A Constitution draft that takes into account the OSCE recommendations was presented to President Aliaksandr Lukashenka 18 months ago.

Euroradio: Belarus received a number of recommendations from the OSCE/ODIHR after the last presidential and parliamentary elections. New parliamentary and presidential elections will be held soon. Will European experts’ recommendations be taken into account or will we be told that ‘time is not ripe yet' again?

Lidziya Yarmoshyna: As you probably know, a special commission set up at the CEC had prepared suggestions based on the OSCE recommendations and sent them to the President 18 months ago. No other work has been conducted since then. Such changes should be added only after the Constitution is changed, the President told the Parliament. It will be clear how the Election Code should be changed after that.

However, we keep introducing the OSCE recommendations to some extent during every election campaign to make the election process more democratic and open. The same will be done during the next electoral campaigns. We always take into account all the negative effects of the previous elections. We try to improve the law-enforcement practice by means of explanations and CEC resolutions.

Euroradio: No changes to the Constitution are being discussed at the moment. Does it mean that the Election Code will not be changed?

Lidziya Yarmoshyna: I think so. The thing is it is pointless to change the law and then change it again after the Constitution gets changed. When the Constitution is changed, the whole election system is changed. It will be a radical change of the electoral laws instead of its improvement based on the OSCE recommendations.

Every country in the world creates its political elite, and we cannot not avoid doing the same, either.

Euroradio: What are the chances that the next presidential and parliamentary elections can be combined with Constitutional amendments?

Lidziya Yarmoshyna: I cannot say anything about it. Nothing is being prepared at the moment in the CEC. The issue is not being discussed by the public either - something that usually happens before the changes of the kind are introduced. The next election campaign will be conducted according to the current Constitution and Election Code. However, anything can happen!

Euroradio: Yet, you used to support the idea of changing our election system.

Lidziya Yarmoshyna: I do not think that our political parties can develop the way they could if proportional representation were introduced. The whole world is creating their political elite that can only be brought up in political parties and we cannot avoid it either.

Euroradio: Our parties also want proportional representation. They will not get it anytime soon, will they?

Lidziya Yarmoshyna: Not necessarily. This is a question that can be answered this way: “They are thinking about it…”

It is not forbidden to combine election campaigns

Euroradio: The next presidential and parliamentary elections will be held in 2020. Will one of the election campaigns be held earlier and which one could it be?

Lidziya Yarmoshyna: I can only be guided by the President’s position. Such election campaigns should not be combined, he said. Thus, I can conclude that they will not be combined. Yet, I can say it again: anything may happen. It is not forbidden to combine election campaigns.

Euroradio: If the parliamentary election is held earlier, will MPs’ term of office be reduced?

Lidziya Yarmoshyna: The term of their work will be reduced. It is not forbidden to do it. We do not call it a violation of the Constitution when we organize presidential elections earlier thus reducing the President’s term of office. It is always necessary to access the political expediency and conditions in which the society exists.