Resources and notes gathered ahead of the Belarusian presidential election, March 2006

Marcin Skubiszewski

This page was compiled before the March 2006 presidential election in Belarus. I do not describe here developments that occured during and after the election. In short: the election was absolutely non-democratic, and was followed with protests, that were suppressed violently by police. The number of people imprisoned during the election and during the protests that followed is roughly estimated at 500 (apparently, many arrests took place so as to prevent the people arrested from observing the election or from campaining in favor of the two opposition candidates Milinkevich and Kazulin).

Calendar and deadlines

The election will take place on March 19, 2006. For all relevant deadlines, see the official calendar of events, published by the Central Commissions for Elections and the Conduct of Referendums.

Restrictions to international observation

As an OSCE member state, Belarus is committed to invite all OSCE member states and various non-governmental organizations from these states to send election observers. This commitment results from Section 8 in the so-called Copenhagen Document, that was approved by Soviet Union in 1990 (Belarus inherited its membership in OSCE from Soviet Union, and likewise inherited all OSCE commitments approved by Soviet Union).

In the past, Belarus fulfilled this commitment, and invited observers of various origins (see below). But this election is different: although the OSCE itself was invited to observe it, member states of OSCE and non-governmental organizations from these states were not invited (except for CIS member states).

As a result, the number and variety of observers is unusually restricted. For example, the international non-governmental organization ENEMO planned to send an observation mission. Poland planned to send a large national, government-sponsored mission. Both missions were cancelled, due to the absence of invitations.

Observation by the OSCE ODIHR

The OSCE ODIHR is the organizational unit within the OSCE that organizes election observation. The work performed by OSCE ODIHR is commonly recognized as highly professional and highly respectable.

So far, the OSCE ODIHR produced two reports about the 2006 presidential election:

The OSCE ODIHR observation mission has a web page.

Electoral law

An incomplete English translation of the code is published by the Belarusian authorities. Beware: the translation is incomplete, and at least some of the missing text is not marked as missing. Use with caution.

Notes about the Belarusian electoral law are below.

Official Belarusian institutions

The Central Commission for Elections and the Conduct of Referendums

Observers' past statements and opinions

Opinions about the present election

According to this article in (in Russian), the date of the election, as chosen by the Belarusian parliament, is outside the time frame set up by the constitution. I did not analyze the Belarusian constitution, and therefore I have no personal opinion about the truthfulness of this claim.

About Belarusian politics

This article (in Polish) describes the politics and the recent history of Belarus.

Viasna (The Spring) is a Belarusian civic NGO, acting in favor of human rights and democracy. The Viasna website contains abundant and interesting information about issues surrounding the election and about human rights violation, in English, in Russian and in Belarusian.

Notes about the electoral law

Links to the laws are above.

The notes below summarize points of the electoral law that I find important. I write this from the perspective of a short-term observer, i.e., I emphasize things that happen on the election day (do not forget that many things that happen before the election day, and that are not covered here, are equally important; for example, equal access to national television is of prime importance).

Status of international observers

The description of observers' duties and rights is in art. 13 of the electoral code. The following points seem interesting:

Secrecy of ballots

The secrecy of the ballots results from art. 9 of the code. According to art. 52, the voter must be alone inside the voting booth while he fills in the ballot. I mention these points because of the frequency at which problems concerning vote secrecy arise in various countries.

Aspects of the procedure that may facilitate fraud or lead to problems

What follows is a list of special situations or procedures that are permitted by the electoral code, and that may cause problems or facilitate fraud:
According to my experience (in countries other than Belarus), when very few people are present (few commission members, few voters), proper procedures tend not to be followed. The three special situations mentioned so far (very small precincts, voting at home and advance voting) all imply the presence of a small number of people; specifically, the code says that only two commission members need to be present during advance voting and during vote at home.

Checking whose representatives are included in electoral comissions may be an interesting aspect of the observation work.


E-mail: I will especially appreciate if you suggest material to add to this page. You can e-mail me in Russian or in English.
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