Election monitors strongly condemn Belarus vote, violent aftermath

December 20th, 2010 - 7:37 pm ICT by BNO News  

MINSK (BNO NEWS) — International election monitors on Monday strongly condemned Sunday’s presidential election in Belarus, which was followed by reports of violence, protests and illegal detentions.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said its monitors concluded that Belarus still has a ‘considerable way’ to go to meet its obligations, and condemned the detention of most presidential candidates along with hundreds of activists, journalists, and civil society representatives.

“This election failed to give Belarus the new start it needed. The counting process lacked transparency. The people of Belarus deserved better. And, in particular, I now expect the Government to account for the arrests of presidential candidates, journalists and human rights activists,” said Tony Lloyd, who leads the short-term OSCE observer mission and heads the delegation of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA).

The observers reported that voting on election day itself was overall assessed positively, but said the process deteriorated significantly during the vote count during which observers assessed almost half of the vote counts monitored as ‘bad’ or ‘very bad’.

“I had very much hoped that this time we would be able to make a more positive assessment. Unfortunately, this is not possible in light of the flawed vote count and the authorities’ heavy-handed response to yesterday’s demonstrations,” said Ambassador Geert-Hinrich Ahrens, Head of the OSCE/ODIHR long-term election observation mission. He encouraged the Belarusian authorities to remain committed to their OSCE obligations and not halt the democratic reforms indispensable for bringing elections in line with international standards.

In addition to the positive assessment of voting itself, OSCE also noted that during the campaign, all candidates were able to convey their messages to the electorate in an unhindered manner. They could address the electorate directly through two TV debates and free airtime provided to them in an uncensored but limited format.

“Nevertheless, the current president and the other contenders competed on unequal terms,” the OSCE said. “There were cases of misuse of administrative resources to promote the incumbent. Nation-wide broadcasters devoted some 90 per cent of political news to the current president. The lack of media diversity reduced the possibility for voters to make an informed choice.”

The OSCE said the Central Election Commission in Belarus administered the technical aspects of the election process well and in a transparent manner, but lacked impartiality. Although the election legislation allows for a pluralistic composition of election commissions, in practice less than 1 per cent of commission members represented the opposition.

According to official election results, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko won re-election with 79.7 percent of the vote. The number was released after all votes had been counted.

Earlier on Monday, European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek strongly condemned the attacks on presidential candidates. “This cowardly attack on a defenceless candidate for President of Belarus is outrageous and disgraceful. I am shocked as I have learned from the testimonies of witnesses as reported by the media, that Mr Vladimir Neklyaev was beaten up by the police force,” Buzek said, adding that such a crackdown was unacceptable.

Buzek added: “I demand from President Lukashenko that he immediately halts all police forces from executing such actions, and to punish all those involved.”

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