Craving for obraining more votes, pro-Lukashenka authorities exert pressure on Belarusians with disabilities.
According to statistical data provided by the Belarusian Association of Sight-Disabled People (‘BelTIZ’), there are about 15,000 blind persons in Belarus. And it is no coincident that the question of how they will vote in the presidential election arises. Even now, officials are dropping strong hints for whom they should cast their vote.
For example, a blind member of a regional branch of BelTIZ has been strongly recommended to support a certain candidate… It should be noted that the Association is state-funded and, consequently, holds cards to provide its members with some specific jobs.
“You should vote for the incumbent president because he gives us everything, they say. It will be bad if you do not vote [for him], bad for you,” says a source who asked not to disclose his name.
Human rights defenders ae aware of the other facts of resorting to ‘vulnerable’ social groups to collect signatures for a particular candidate. In accordance with the law, everyone has the right to decides whether they vote in the elections or not, but in the case of persons with disabilities, employers have additional leverage.
“People with vision disabilities view, and disabled people in general, are worse off than other citizens, because in theory, the latter, theoretically, stand the opportunity of seeking employment in case they are fired or their contract is not extended,” Valyantsin Stefanovich, a lawyer of Human Rights Center ‘Viasna’, says.
Questions to the process of voting also remain. In the 2010 presidential election the blind could come to a polling station and cast their vote only with the help the accompanying person, but this method does not guarantee reserving the right of the secrecy of ballot.
This year, the Central Election Commission plans to introduce a new system, but the project is not perfect enough – blind people still can not read the ballot, since it will not be written in Braille.
Thus, our country cannot boast of creating proper conditions for disabled people’s voting yet. This means that it will be no trouble to have an impact on it.