“Please, understand that 2020 is a special year”
On June 21-24th, it was decided to form 5720 precinct election commissions in Belarus. Any adult citizen can be a member of the election commission – it is an honorary duty, which does not require special education or skills.
This year, thousands of people, who have never been members of election commissions before, were nominated by citizens living at territories of polling stations. More than 2000 people have applied for the initiative alone. Surprisingly, almost all of these people were rejected – they were rejected unreasonably and cynically, turning the nomination and voting procedure into a farce and leaving tens of thousands of voters’ signatures collected from polling stations unattended. It did not matter who the applicant was – the head of the enterprise, a unique specialist, a famous musician or a student at Harvard University.
According to the election code, the precinct commission can consist of 5-19 people. In total, 70,200 applications for 108,600 potential seats have been submitted. If we took all those who expressed a desire, the commission would have an average of 12 people. But the size of the commissions has been reduced so that only those people who should be there get there.
Why is it safe to talk about collusion?
Because it’s obvious to anyone who’s watched the streams. And here we are talking not only about the amazing facts of synchronous raising of hands and incredible guessing of the right composition of the commissions. Thanks to the streams, we have heard those who should vote for the nominated candidates, without hesitation, laughing at them and saying that it is possible to vote as much as you want – the main thing is to vote for the right person. When people raise their hands without hearing the names (and all decisions are made only unanimously), or when the chairman votes in one way and the commission votes in the opposite (and the decision is always made “against” the chairman’s decision). It may seem ridiculous but in fact, it is terrible, because when the right norms are formally present, the Electoral Code completely distorts the essence of the process. From elections to elections at specific polling stations, the commission gets the same people working in the same team, but nominated each time differently: from party, trade union, or public association (to which they have nothing to do with). How can we talk about honest elections with this approach?
We appeal to everyone who is responsible for what is happening. Please, understand that 2020 is a special year. The situation has changed. We must not violate the electoral rights of citizens, because only fair elections are the best and peaceful way to eliminate the current tension. We ask everyone to let the elections be fair. Belarusians deserve it.
We want to appeal to all those who participated in the “elections” to the precinct commissions.
- Thank you to those who put themselves forward. You are awesome! You did everything you could at your polling station – went around the neighbors, collected signatures, took recommendations. You came to the meetings of the commissions and were ready to answer questions that no one was going to ask. You weren’t even allowed to attend the meeting. But it wasn’t your fault that you weren’t on the committee. Don’t get upset, go to the observers, we’ll still get the fair count.
- We want to appeal to the members of the presidiums of the Councils of Deputies and executive committees. We can see the face expressions most of you were sitting with during the vote. We understand that you don’t like it either. Please tell us the truth about what was going on and how decisions on precinct commissions were made.
- We appeal to the judges who will consider complaints about the decisions made. You are professionals. You already understand everything. We ask you to consider the cases thoroughly, to demand evidence and call witnesses – you know what these witnesses will say.
- We appeal to those organizations that have “nominated” their representatives: parties, public associations, trade unions. Please re-read your statutes. Are your real representatives not worthy to be nominated to the precinct commissions? Do you really have to nominate the people the list of whom someone gave to you? After all, we could not know in advance that we should nominate an employee of a certain organization where the polling station is located. After all, you have really active participants. You can hold a meeting and call off your representatives, choose new ones.
- We want to appeal to those who found themselves in the precinct commissions despite their will. If this is a burden for you, if you are not sure that you will be allowed to be honest, you can recuse yourself. You know that according to Article 192 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, the wrong counting of votes or any other distortion of the voting results, committed by a person who is a member of any election commission, is a crime for which a penalty of up to 5 years of imprisonment can be imposed. You do not have to take risks if you are afraid that other members of the commission may force you to do something illegal – there is always the right to withdraw from this process.
- Finally, we appeal to those members of the commission who will stay on the commission and do their best to ensure that fair elections are held. Thank you! Belarusians are hoping for you. You can confirm that the commission is in favor of fair elections from the very first meeting. Choose a chairman by secret ballot, let him be a respected person, but not a boss in relation to the other commission members. Change the agenda and accept the principles of a fair election: the possibility of taking pictures for observers, public demonstration of the minutes when counting, additional signing by the observer when sealing the ballot boxes, etc. You have the right to be proud of your honesty and you can make sure that no one can reproach you for any manipulation at your polling station.
We are ashamed. We’re really embarrassed that everything happens like this. And we’re sure that those whom we named in this appeal are ashamed too. But they have an opportunity to change everything.
Perhaps, one day the current or future Nobel laureate will write a book about the Belarusian elections. And it will contain stories of those people who were inside a system which seemed impossible to shake or break. The most touching and the most favourite stories will be those in which, despite the circumstances, people found the courage to change what seemed immutable forever by simple and lawful actions. We believe in you, and we know that this story has a happy ending!