The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe say that Sunday’s presidential vote in Belarus fell short of the country’s democratic commitments.
“The 11 October election once again indicated that Belarus still has a considerable way to go in meeting its OSCE commitments for democratic elections. This underscores the need for the political will to engage in a comprehensive reform process. Some specific improvements and a welcoming attitude were noted. Significant problems, particularly during the counting and tabulation, undermined the integrity of the election,” the International Election Observation Mission (IEOM) says in Monday’s preliminary statement.
The international observers find it a positive sign that president Alyaksandr Lukashenka released political prisoners in August 2015. The IEOM institutions expect that with these releases additional such prosecutions will not happen and that this marks a closed chapter.
“The recent release of political prisoners and a welcoming approach to observers were positive developments. However, the hope that this gave us for broader electoral progress was largely unfulfilled,” said Kent Harstedt, head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s observer mission for the election.
Harstedt criticized Belarusian authorities for creating ‘an uneven playing field for campaigning’ and the fact that observers were not allowed to be present during votes counting.
On election day, the voting process was assessed positively in 95 per cent of observations. However, a large number of IEOM observers were not allowed access to check the voter lists and seemingly identical signatures were observed in 47 polling stations. Indications of ballot box stuffing during the counting process were reported in 38 instances from 22 polling stations.
The count was assessed negatively by observers, with some 30 per cent of polling stations assessed as bad or very bad of the 169 processes observed, indicating significant problems.
On Sunday Lukashenka, who won by a landslide 83.5 percent, said Belarus had fulfilled all commitments for free and fair elections.
The group of observers has four hundred members from 38 countries, including 325 OSCE/ODIHR observers, 58 friends of the OSCE PA, 15 parliamentarians and PACE staff. A lot of states defer to its opinion on elections.
For example, Lithuania will be building a long-term relation if the report of OSCE observers is positive, president Dalia Grybauskaite said.