Statement by the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation's
Observer Mission on monitoring the preparations for and holding of elections
to the House of Representatives of the National Assembly
of the Republic of Belarus
On 13-17 November 2019, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (hereinafter referred to as the SCO or Organisation), acting at the invitation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, took part in the international monitoring of the preparations for and holding of elections to the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus.
1. The Mission's lineup
The Mission included 17 accredited observers representing legislative, executive and election agencies of seven SCO member states, as well as officials from the SCO Secretariat and the Executive Committee of the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS).
SCO Deputy Secretary-General Xie Xiaoyong headed the mission.
The Mission included the following members:
Zhan Kystaubayev, Counsellor, Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan in the Republic of Belarus;
Zhong Hua, First Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China;
Nazarali Aripov, member, Central Commission for Elections and Referenda of the Kyrgyz Republic;
Mamyt Moldobayev, Special Representative, Central Commission for Elections and Referenda of the Kyrgyz Republic;
Muhammad Abdullah Amin, Charge d'Affaires, Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in Belarus;
Farit Mukhametshin, Deputy Chair, Russia's Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs;
Sergei Sirotkin, member, Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation;
Yusufzoda Nosirjon Salimi, Director, Rudaki Institute of Language and Literature of the Republic of Tajikistan;
Otabek Makhkamov, Faculty Dean, Academy of Public Administration under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
The Executive Committee of the SCO RATS was represented by Deputy Director Vadim Barchuk.
Taking part in the mission on behalf of the SCO Secretariat were counsellors Minara Rakhanova and Khabib Munir; Shohin Samadi, Expert 1st Class; and information officers Daniar Chirkeyev, Miraziz Mirsaidov and Marat Tuayev.
2. Mission objectives
The Mission worked under the SCO Regulations on the SCO Observer Mission at Presidential and/or Parliamentary Elections and Referendums and the principles of political neutrality, objectivity and non-interference in the internal affairs of the country in question, as well as in strict compliance with the laws of the Republic of Belarus.
In September 2019, the SCO Secretariat started creating the Mission and analysing the election legislation and practice in the Republic of Belarus.
The Mission worked under the concept of operations of the Observer Mission of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation to monitor preparations for and holding of elections to the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus.
The Mission head (the SCO Deputy Secretary-General) and members held official and working meetings with the leadership of the Central Commission of the Republic of Belarus on Elections and Republican Referenda, the heads, secretaries and members of territorial and district election commissions, voters, national observers, public initiative groups, the heads and members of the observer missions of foreign countries and international organisations, as well as the media.
The Mission's conclusions are based on personal observations conducted by the Mission staff and factual material collected during the preparations for the election and on the election day itself.
3. Legislative framework for electing deputies to the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus
The Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, the Electoral Code of the Republic of Belarus and other regulatory legal acts of the Central Commission of the Republic of Belarus on Elections and Republican Referenda form the basis of the legislative framework on electing deputies to the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus.
4. Innovations in the electoral legislation of the Republic of Belarus
The Central Commission of the Republic of Belarus on Elections and Republican Referenda retained law enforcement innovations that were in effect during the 2016 parliamentary elections and local elections in 2018. Measures to improve the electoral process include improving transparency of forming the election commissions' activities and their openness, increasing opportunities for monitoring the election procedures, including vote counting and summing up election results, as well as expanding the freedom of campaigning.
5. Using modern information and civic platforms
An electronic map of constituencies for the election of deputies of the House of Representatives has been drawn up (now available on the public map of the National Cadastral Agency of the Republic of Belarus).
During the election period, voters made use of a special mobile app to locate their constituency and polling station.
Video messages made by the Chairman of the Central Commission and requisite information about the election were posted on a special website, Elections 2019, of the Central Commission of the Republic of Belarus for Elections and Republican Referenda.
The election-related information was also posted on the websites of local executive and administrative bodies during the election campaign.
6. Candidates for deputies to the House of Representatives of the National
Assembly of the Republic of Belarus
Candidates for deputies to the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus were nominated by the following entities:
— political parties;
— labour collectives of the organisations with at least 300 employees;
— citizens by way of collecting at least 1,000 signatures.
From 8 September to 7 October 2019 included, 110 electoral districts of the Republic of Belarus fielded 703 candidates for deputies, of whom 513 candidates were duly registered as of 16 November 2019.
7. Pre-election campaigning
The campaign began after the candidates for deputies had been registered and ended on 16 November 2019.
The candidates had equal opportunities to present their election campaign in the media.
During the election period, candidates and their proxies met with the voters, and election meetings were held. Throughout the country, 980 applications for holding 6,314 events were filed.
Local authorities provided the candidates for deputies with the opportunity to conduct campaigning activities throughout the country, except for certain off-limit sites. There were 1,296 notifications listing 26,429 public events.
8. Election preparations
Executive Order of the President of the Republic of Belarus of 5 August 2019 No. 294 appointed elections to the House of Representatives of the seventh National
Assembly of the Republic of Belarus on 17 November 2019. For the elections, seven territorial election commissions were set up, as well as 110 district commissions (13 in the Grodno and Mogilev regions, 14 in the Vitebsk, 16 in the Brest, 17 in the Gomel and 17 in the Minsk regions, and 20 in Minsk), 5,831 precinct commissions and 46 commissions at Belarusian diplomatic missions abroad.
On 6 August 2019 the Central Commission of the Republic of Belarus on Elections and Republican Referenda met and:
— approved the schedule of organisational measures for the preparations for and holding of elections;
— formed constituencies based on the number of seats in the House of Representatives;
— adopted decisions on the formation of election commissions, deploying national and international observers, signature collection for the nomination of candidates, enabling voters abroad to take part in the election, accessible voting procedures and facilities for persons with disabilities, raising public awareness of the election process, financing of elections, etc.;
— adopted resolutions on income and property declaration requirements for candidates, their use of the media in the election campaign, the candidates' election funds, the Central Commission Information Centre, as well as on voting procedures for special categories of voters.
Early voting took place from 12 to 16 November 2019. Over the five days, more than 35 percent of people voted (up from 2016 early voting at 31 percent during the previous parliamentary election). The total number of voters on the election lists is 6,859,866.
Training sessions were held for chairs, deputy chairs, secretaries of territorial and district commissions, and heads of local bodies.
9. Providing equal access for voters with disabilities
The following necessary conditions were created for voters with disabilities:
— blind voters were provided with tactile voting devices they can use to fill out their ballot independently; the visually impaired, with magnifying glasses;
— special tables with a partition (screen) or voting booths, as well as ramps were installed at polling stations for wheelchair users and other persons with impaired musculoskeletal system functions;
— voters with hearing impairments had the opportunity to follow the campaign on television, as the candidates' speeches had subtitles or were done in sign language;
— in hard-to-reach polling stations, persons with disabilities were assisted by volunteers;
— voters who could not get to polling stations due to health reasons could vote at home.
10. Main conclusions
On the election day, the Mission watched officials prepare the ballot papers and seal the stationary as well as the portable ballot boxes.
To gain the most insight into the election process, Mission members oversaw the activities in the cities of Minsk, Mogilev and Brest and in the towns of the Minsk, Mogilev and Brest regions.
The actual voting took place between 8 am and 8 pm on the election day. The counting of votes began immediately afterwards.
The district election commissions will review the results for each election district based on the district commission protocols no later than by 21 November 2019. The election results for the regions and the city of Minsk are to be subsequently approved by the regional and the Minsk election commissions and for the republic as a whole by the Central Commission.
Ahead of and on the actual election day, the SCO observers visited 436 polling stations, as well as regional and district election bodies across the Republic of Belarus.
The SCO observers visited polling stations without coordinating the matter with the executive or election authorities of Belarus. Each member of the SCO Mission selected his or her polling station and did not encounter any obstacles that could hinder their work.
The SCO Observer Mission reported major public activity on the election day and high professional standards of election commission members. Members of the election commissions provided the necessary conditions for voting and gave exhaustive explanations regarding any questions that the public might have had.
The district election commissions had all the necessary documents in accordance with the election laws of the Republic of Belarus. Voting proceeded calmly in keeping with the established procedure and was monitored by the local and international observers together with the media.
Members of the SCO Mission did not receive any complaints or criticism during their work in the republic. On the election day itself, they received statements from the local observers on the absence of any violations at the polling stations.
At the same time, Mission members did take note of a few technical violations, which were not enough to influence the outcome of the election.
During their monitoring activities, the Mission members proceed from the assumption that the elections are a huge step on the path of democratic development of the Republic of Belarus.
The SCO Mission has concluded that the elections in the Republic of Belarus were held in compliance with the country's legislation and international obligations.
The SCO Mission did not report any violations of the national election law that would put in question the legitimacy of the election.
The SCO Observer Mission concludes that the elections were transparent, legitimate and democratic.
The SCO Mission congratulates the people of the Republic of Belarus on concluding the election process and wishes them every success in their efforts to strengthen the statehood, sovereignty and socioeconomic progress in the country and to attain new goals in all spheres of life in the country.
Observer Mission of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation
City of Minsk, 18 November 2019