There have not been similar elections in Belarus. It’s not because the previous ones of four and eight years ago were different – everything was just the same. But this time, everything that was happening around the elections, it reminded of a detective novel, not read till the end, where the baddie has been known for long, and still there is a question whether he could repent or escape, killing another couple of witnesses, or maybe expose the real villain at the end. And one turns over the pages waiting for the ending impatiently. However, the ending turns out to be predictable and standard, as the author lacks imagination.
The world community decided for some reason that Lukashenko might be browned off to sit in isolation and he might be willing to give up a “unanimous” parliament, allowing there a couple of oppositionists, for the sake of opportunity of having a window on Europe. The release of the former presidential contender Alexander Kozulin was felt as a good sign by the opposition and by the West. And so everyone began to get ready for the election.
The West promised closer relations and investments; the opposition was gathering signatures to run for deputy’s position. The oppositionist parties decided to take part in the elections and they gave a simple explanation to that: it’s necessary to use the legal opportunity to communicate with the voters.
When the oppositionist party’s candidates were refused to get registered, they were not even surprised. They said “Anyway there will be no fair elections, as the outcomes will be forged while the turnout will be overestimated”. They realized they would ease the working by the local elective commissions about “picturing” the figures of the turnout. Well, participation by the opposition has really helped the elective commissions, as many of those who were going to boycott the elections, decided to come to vote to support democratic candidates, so that they were not left without votes. Byelorussians are generous people…
Before the elections the democratic candidates convinced themselves and others saying “They are oppressing us, they are struggling with us, and anyway we will not be allowed there, but still we are going to go this way till the end. And if something goes wrong, we shall just withdraw our candidacies, as an action of protest.” Well, it’s been everything that “went wrong”. However, it’s been only 20 candidates that withdrew their candidacies. Two men burnt their candidate’s certificates in front of the Central Elective Commission building just before the election day. The rest continued going the entire way, that is they tried to get not only to the number of candidates but also to the elective commissions themselves. Some of them were lucky. The members of the democratic parties came to a “great” number of 0.07% within the composition of the elective commissions. (And even those people were told to leave the election halls before the protocols began to arrive from the district commissions).
400 OSCE observers arrived in Minsk in the hope that after a few days this many-year nightmare would be over and they would not have to sit several days writing resolutions like “we condemn”, “we demand immediate release from prison”, “we call the Byelorussian authorities to stop these practices”. Yes, writing all that must be boring. It would be much more pleasant to conduct some constructive talks and shake hands. The head of the Bureau for democratic institutions and human rights at OSCE Yanez Lenarcic also arrived to watch the elections.
The hope for better did not disappear even after the figure of 26% of previous voting was announced. That is, almost two millions of Byelorussians decided to leave on vacation at the end of September and rushed to previously vote. In reality, everything went its usual way. Students were driven to vote being intimidated with expulsion or getting untitled for a bed in a hall of residence. The kolkhoz farmers were promised to get their wages only after the previous voting. In mysterious way the urns were unsealed with the purpose of insertion of the forged ballot papers.
Though, the European observers decided that falsifications at the previous voting are just a Byelorussian folk tradition, hard to get rid of and so it’s better not to notice it, giving the major attention to the main election day that was to demonstrate the changes and prove the rightness of the West’s willingness for quick and decisive getting closer to Belarus. Well, after the main day, 28 September, the official written opinion by the Bureau of Democratic Institutions, published the next day, said that promises were not kept to provide for transparency of calculating the votes. The procedures of counting the votes got the “bad” and “very bad” marks at 48% of the visited polling stations. At 50% the number of those voting did not add up with the number of registered electors. At the stations where watching was possible, it was noticed several cases of forgery. In 35% of cases the OSCE observers were refused to watch the procedure of vote counting. Thus, the transparency of this fundamental element of the elective process was discredited, said the document.
And that was just an official formulation. The official documents did not say how the OSCE observers were pushed away from the halls before the counting procedure began. The ambassadors of Lithuania and Italy, who had the mandates of international observers, were refused to see the number of those previously voting. In the city of Orsh many voters found themselves to “disappear” when they came to the polling station. No doubt, all of them were paced in the lists of those previously voting. Zinaida Gonchar, the widow of the former chair of the Elective Commission, who was kidnapped and killed 9 years ago, got a cynical invitation to the elections to the name of her husband, as he posthumously was announced to be an honorary voter…
After the polling stations were closed, the opposition and those boycotting this election, gathered at the Oktyabrskaya Square in Minsk. The column of 3,000 people passed to the Independence Square. There, standing near the building of the Central Elective Commission the protesters demanded that new elections – fair and democratic – be held. Someone put the EU flag on the monument to Lenin, which looked very avant-guard.
After the demonstration and the meeting the militia bashed the youth in the usual way. It was clear that everything was the same.
Monday morning the chair of the Elective Commission Ermoshina announced that the elections were considered to be completed and 75% of voters had taken part in it. No oppositionist candidates passed to the parliament. In the afternoon the OSCE announced non-recognition of the elections and disproved the official Byelorussian media who alleged that Mr. Lenarcic said he did not see any serious violations in the elective process. It turned out, however, that he said exactly the opposite.
It appears that in case a few opposition candidates had managed to pass to the parliament, there would not have been any disproval by OSCE. But at the last moment Lukashenko preferred acting in the “good old way”. There might have been only one reason for that – Russia must have made a proposal impossible to refuse. Russia does not want that the integral part of the “allied state” goes to get earnings in the West. What exactly proposal was made by Russia will be known soon, as on 6 October Vladimir Putin will come to Minsk.