Belarus 2010: How they cheated.
Posted by democratist on February 14, 2011
14th February 2010,
The Belarusian domestic nonpartisan election monitoring NGO, Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections has just released their Final Report on the 19th December 2010 elections.
This is an excellent report, that gives considerable detail on the techniques used by the regime to rig the polls (which broadly match our predictions). You can link to it here, or read Democratist’s short summary below.
The main points are;
- The necessary foundation for democratic elections, in particular regarding the real independence and balance of the election authorities, vote count procedures and effective complaints and appeals process, was not established.
- 2009 census data provides an indication that 300-350,000 persons who have the right to vote were not included on the voter lists, and that the real number of eligible voters in Belarus during the election should have been 7.4-7.45 million.
- The complete dominance of state broadcast and printed media by the incumbent, especially during the last two weeks of the campaign period, disadvantaged other opposition candidates who were either not mentioned, or were portrayed in an overwhelmingly negative light.
- The majority of the national observers were representatives of NGOs and political parties loyal to the regime. Their task was to interfere with activities of independent national observers and journalists. No single complaint has been lodged by these observers, or any election observation report released.
- The authorities used state administrative resources to coerce voters, especially students and state employees, to vote early. Observers experienced numerous obstacles during early voting, including denial of accreditation and withholding of information on the registration figures.
- A high number of reported irregularities concerned the inclusion of voters into the list for mobile voting. As a rule, voters were added to the special voter list based on their age and the geographical distance from the polling station (especially in rural areas) rather than at the request of the voter. In many polling stations, the number of mobile voters was disproportionate, i.e. up to 30%.
- The vote count was carried out in a non-transparent manner. Though most of the observers were allowed to observe the vote count, in most cases the distance from which they were allowed to watch did not allow them to view the content of ballot papers.
- It is impossible to say whether the ballots in the ballot boxes at the moment the vote count started were the same ballots which were cast by the voters themselves, because during early voting and mobile voting, members of election commissions (which were not independent or pluralistic) and unauthorized persons had access to relevant ballot boxes in absence of observers or other witnesses, and the way the ballot boxes were designed and sealed did not provide an adequate safeguard against potential manipulation.
- Peaceful conduct of the election was marred on the evening of election day, 19 December, when riot police brutally dispersed participants of a mass demonstration who came to Nezalezhnasci Square in Minsk to protest against unfair conduct of the election. By the morning of 20 December, about 700 persons were detained, including seven presidential candidates. Many of those detained were beaten, including three presidential candidates. At the time of the report’s release, four presidential candidates and 31 of their supporters were in pre-trial detention facilities and under house arrest. They are charged with organization of a mass riot or participation in it.