Belarusian presidential election, 2006

Belarus

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The elections for the position of president of Belarus took place on March 19 2006. The winner of the elections holds the office until the next round of scheduled elections, which are determined by the country's House of Representatives.

Western observers have deemed the elections rigged. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) declared that the election "failed to meet OSCE commitments for democratic elections." However, election observers from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) described the vote as open and transparent.

Candidates

On February 17 2006, the Central Election Commission approved the following list of candidates:

Former candidates

Preceding events

Both the European Parliament and United States Congress issued warnings that Belarus may expect more sanctions and similar punitive actions in the case of violation of human rights during the elections. The United States already has sanctions on Belarus due to past election issues, as stated in the Belarus Democracy Act of 2004, which also allows it to provide assistance to political parties and NGOs. [1] The CIS observer mission at the Belarusian presidential elections commented that "the negative statements made in the EU and the United States are attempts to create predetermined negative sentiments in the international community toward elections results in Belarus. Such actions towards a sovereign state hardly comply with standards of international law," according to the same election monitoring body. [2] The OSCE have also sent monitors to Belarus to observe the elections and to make sure the elections are free from any irregularities.

On March 1 2006, opposition candidate Alaksandar Kazulin attempted to enter the third meeting of the All Belarusian People's Assembly, which was hosted by President Lukashenko. Security officers arrested and beat Kazulin, who was charged with disorderly conduct, and then held in custody for eight hours.[3]

In the build-up to the elections, several Georgians who were part of the OSCE observer team were intercepted by the Belarusian Frontier Guard and placed under custody. Lukashenko also announced that protests similar to what occurred during the Orange, Rose and Tulip revolutions will not take place in Belarus and states that "force will not be used" to claim the presidency.[4]

Results

On March 19 2006 exit polls showed Lukashenko winning a third term in a landslide, amid opposition claims of vote-rigging and fear of violence.[5] The EcooM organization gave Lukashenko 84.2% of the vote and Milinkevich just 2 percent, while the Belarusian Committee of Youth Organizations gave Lukashenko 84.2% and Milinkevich 3.1 percent. The Gallup Organization has noted that EcooM and the Belarusian Committee of Youth Organizations are government-controlled and both released their exit poll results before noon on election day, although voting stations closed at 8 p.m. [1]
discussedit
'''Summary of the official 19 March 2006 Belarus presidential Belarusian presidential election, 2006>Election results
Candidates - Parties Votes %
Alexander Lukashenko 82.6
Alexander Milinkievič - United Democratic Forces of Belarus 6.0
Sergei Gaidukevich - Liberal Democratic Party of Belarus 3.5
Alaksandar Kazulin: Belarusian Social Democratic Party 2.3
Total (turnout 92.6 %)  
Source: "Landslide win for Belarus leader", BBC News, 2006-03-20. 


Lukashenko was sworn in for his third term on April 8 2006.

Reaction

Belarusian authorities

Belarus authorities initially vowed to crush unrest in the event of large-scale protests following the election.[6] Since then, however, they have decided to use more subtle methods of attrition to subdue protesters.[7] Lukashenko declared victory and defeat of "The Jeans Revolution", promising not to jail Milinkevich and Kozulin.[8]

On March 23, Constitution Court of Belarus[9] rejected the Opposition's appeals. Lukashenko will be inaugurated on Monday.

On March 24, Belarusian police broke up[10] days of protests in central Minsk against President Lukashenko's re-election, detaining about 460 demonstrators in an early hours swoop. The demonstrators had rejected police calls to leave the square, focus of the protests. They had erected tents and kept protesting round the clock despite sub-zero temperatures at night. One of the detained protesters called Reuters by mobile phone and said they were being taken to a pre-trial detention centre in the capital.

On March 25, riot police clashed with protesters, forcing demonstrators back and hitting several with truncheons.[11] One of the protesters was killed in the fight. Four explosions were heard, apparently percussion grenades set off by police. Many protesters were detained, including one of the opposition leaders, Alexander Kozulin, Russian news agencies reported. The main opposition leader, Alexander Milinkevich, denied reports by Russian news agencies that he himself was detained.

On March 29, Gazeta.ru reported that opposition leader Kozulin is arrested and can get up to 6 years in jail for organizing riots and hooliganism. Milinkevich can get 15 days for hooliganism.[2]

According to Moscow News[3], two journalists of Belarus state television channel allegedly beaten by opposition forces during an unsanctioned rally in Minsk are currently in hospital with severe injuries, RIA Novosti said Monday. Reporter of First Belarusian State Channel Mikhail Kristin has suffered a concussion, and cameraman Dmitry Chumak has a spine injury. Both are in hospital, the Belarusian State Television company said. The journalists were injured during the Saturday unrest in the Belarus capital. Members of opposition called it a lie.

Belarusian opposition

After the results were announced, a mass rally assembled in October Square in Minsk, waving the banned white-red-white flag of independent Belarus, the flag of the European Union, as well as flags of other countries such as neighboring Russia, Poland and Ukraine, and even Armenia.

The crowd of demonstrators rallying after the election was the biggest the opposition had mustered in years, reaching at least 10,000 to 20,000.[12]. The next day a tent camp was erected on October Square in downtown Minsk. Number of participants of the opposition rally varied from 300 in the morning to 5,000 in the evening. The main opposition leaders had called for the protests to keep up until Saturday, when a major rally is expected, coinciding with the anniversary of the creation of first independent Belarusian republic in 1918.[13]. Despite this, on Friday night riot police were dispatched to the site of the protest and 377 (460, according to other sources) participants and journalists were arrested, effectively dismantling the demonstration[14]. Most of the arrested people were sentenced 5 to 15 days in prison. There were Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, Canadian, and Georgian citizens among the arrested.

On Saturday several thousand demonstrators took to the streets, as the police had closed off October Square. Opposition leader Alaksandar Kazulin was arrested. One of the demonstators was killed when the riot police dispersed the crowd.

Western countries

The official OSCE report released on March 20 2006, concluded that the presidential election failed to meet OSCE commitments for democratic elections. The OSCE, of which Belarus is a member, stated that Lukashenko permitted State authority to be used in a manner which did not allow citizens to freely and fairly express their will at the ballot box, and a pattern of intimidation and the suppression of independent voices was evident[15].

On March 21, the United States of America stated that it believed that the election was rigged. In the words of White House spokesman Scott McClellan, "The United States does not accept the results of the election. We support the call for a new election."

Czech President Václav Klaus decided not to congratulate Lukashenko on re-election as president as "the course of the presidential elections on Sunday confirmed his fears for democracy in Belarus". Klaus previously criticized "very disputable circumstances of the parliamentary elections and the changes in the constitution that allowed Lukashenko to run for the post again after two election terms" in his open letter to Lukashenko last year. Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda proposed inviting opposition leader Alyaksander Milinkevich to the EU summit. As his proposal did not succeed he initiated invitation of Milinkevich to the European People's Party meeting that will take place prior the EU summit.[16]

According to Czech News Agancy, Jan Rybar, reporter of the Czech daily Mlada fronta Dnes, was attacked and beaten up at the opposition demonstration in Minsk... He said in his opinion he had been beaten up by agents of the Belarusian secret police KGB, but has no direct piece of evidence to prove it. [17][18].

On March 23, American diplomats evacuated[19] Vyacheslav Sivchik, one of the organizers of the opposition meeting, from Oktyabrskaya Square.

On March 24, EU leaders agreed at a summit to impose sanctions on Belarus leaders, including a possible travel ban on Lukashenko,[20] after his victory in a disputed presidential election on Sunday. Officials said Lukashenko had won more than 80% of the vote. A statement from the 25 leaders called the country "a sad exception ... on a continent of open and democratic societies" and said the election had violated democratic norms. "The European council has decided to take restrictive measures against those responsible for the violations of international electoral standards, including President Lukashenko," the Austrian foreign minister, Ursula Plassnik, said after the EU summit. She gave no details, but EU officials said measures being considered included visa bans on those accused of allegedly rigging the poll and possible asset freezes, but not economic sanctions against the former Soviet republic.

Lukashenko will be banned from entering the 25 nations of the EU - including Belarus' neighbours, Poland, Latvia and Lithuania - and from the US.[21] EU diplomats are drawing up a list of Belarusian officials who will be targeted by "smart sanctions" and final decisions will be taken on 10 April.

Russia

Russia considers the election results acceptable; the Russian Foreign Ministry declared the election fair, and Russian president Vladimir Putin called Lukashenko to congratulate him on his victory[22].

Russian Foreign Ministry condemned OSCE bias on Belarus poll:
The biased verdict of the OSCE, Europe's main election monitoring organization, on the presidential election in Belarus highlights the need to improve the process of observing polls, an official spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday. "We believe that the biased nature of the verdict of the monitoring mission has again confirmed the importance of beginning, at last, focused work to correct shortcomings in the election monitoring practice," Mikhail Kamynin said referring to a decision made by foreign ministers of the 55-nation security grouping in December last year[23].
On March 24, Sergey Lavrov accused OSCE of instigating tensions during the parliamentary election campaign in Belarus:
"Long before the elections, the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights had declared that they (the elections) would be illegitimate and it was pretty biased in its commentaries on their progress and results, thus playing an instigating role."[24]
It was one of many Russian criticisms of the trans-Atlantic group's vote monitoring activities.

Pro-government press and organizations lauded the outcome as a defeat of "orange" political technologies[25], whereas the liberal opposition traditionally condemned Lukashenko's actions. On March 26, about ten people from liberal movements and parties, joined by occasional passers-by, attempted to carry out an unsanctioned demonstration in support of the Belarusian opposition near the building of the Ministry of International Affairs, but were quickly dispersed by authorities.[26]

Reflecting a widespread belief among journalists, Russian commentator Piotr Parhomenko wrote in lenta.ru[4] that Lukashenko's decision to allow the opposition demonstration was a move calculated to divide the opposition, as Kozulin wanted to stop the protests while Milinkevich called for them to go on indefinitely.

Belarusian President's comment

According to a Belarusian news portal, Lukashenko himself stated that the "last Presidential elections were rigged; I already told this to the Westerners. [...] 93.5% voted for the President Lukashenko [sic]. They said it's not a European number. We made it 86. This really happened. And if [one is to] start recounting the votes, I don't know what to do with them. Before the elections they told us that if we showed the European numbers, our elections would be accepted. We were planning to make the European numbers. But, as you can see, this didn't help either."[5]

References

1. ^ "US Congress imposes sanctions against Belarus over democracy issues", Pravda, 2004-10-06. 
2. ^ "Foreign pressure in Belarus presidential election campaign - CIS observers", Interfax, 2006-02-21. 
3. ^ "Belarus rally marred by arrests", BBC News, 2006-03-02. 
4. ^ "Belarus' Lukashenko Vows to Stop Takeover", Yahoo! News, 2006-03-17.  (Link dead as of 15 January 2007)
5. ^ "Lukashenko wins over 80% of vote - exit poll", Interfax, 2006-03-19. 
6. ^ "Opposition Accuses Lukashenko of Manipulating Belarus Vote", Deutsche Welle, 2006-03-19. 
7. ^ "Belarus protest enters fifth day, but Lukashenko stays firm", Yahoo! News, 2006-03-23.  (Link dead as of 15 January 2007)
8. ^ "Александру Лукашенко стало тесно в Белоруссии", Izvestia, 2006-03-21.  (Russian)
9. ^ "«Мы уйдем в подполье»", Gazeta.ru, 2006-03-24.  (Russian)
10. ^ "Belarus breaks up opposition protests", Reuters, 2006-03-24.  (Link dead as of 15 January 2007)
11. ^ "Belarus Police Detain Many Protesters", ABC News, 2006-03-25. 
12. ^ "Belarus: Big lead for incumbent", CNN, 2006-03-19.  (Link dead as of 15 January 2007)
13. ^ "Belarus poll rallies 'must go on'", BBC News, 2006-03-21. 
14. ^ "Belarus Police Nab 200 at Election Protest", Yahoo! News, 2006-03-23.  (Link dead as of 15 January 2007)
15. ^ "Presidential Election, Republic of Belarus", Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, 2006-03-20. 
16. ^ "Klaus not to congratulate Lukashenko on re-election as president", Prague Daily Monitor, 2006-03-23. 
17. ^ "Czech reporter beaten up at opposition demonstration in Minsk", Czech News Agency, 2006-03-20. 
18. ^ "Czech journalist beaten in Minsk", Pravda, 2006-03-21. 
19. ^ "Организатора митинга в Минске спасли американские дипломаты", Lenta.ru, 2006-03-24.  (Russian)
20. ^ "EU sanctions as Belarus moves against protesters", The Guardian, 2006-03-24. 
21. ^ "Belarus 'dictator' banned from entering EU and US", The Independent, 2006-03-25. 
22. ^ "Putin congratulates Lukashenko on election victory", RIA Novosti, 2006-03-20. 
23. ^ "Russian Foreign Ministry slams OSCE bias on Belarus poll", RIA Novosti, 2006-03-21. 
24. ^ "Report: Russia accuses OSCE of instigating tensions in Belarus", Kyiv Post, 2006-03-24. 
25. ^ ""Оранжевые" технологии в Белоруссии применимы, но неэффективны", RIA Novosti, 2006-03-21.  (Russian)
26. ^ "Несанкционированную акцию в поддержку белорусской оппозиции(...)", Эхо Москвы, 2006-03-21.  (Russian)

External links

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1994
Belarusian parliamentary elections {flagicon
Belarusian referendums {flagiconnull}}Belarus/th>
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Anthem
Мы, беларусы   (Belarusian)
My, Belarusy   (transliteration)
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Constitution of the Republic of Belarus (Belarusian: Канстытуцыя Рэспублікі
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President of Belarus (Belarusian: Прэзідэнт Рэспублікі Беларусь
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Alexander Lukashenko (Belarusian: Алякса́ндар Рыго́равіч
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Belarus

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Sergey Sidorsky (Belarusian: Сяргей Сідорскі (Syarhey Sidorski/Siarhiej Sidorski)) (born March 13 1954 in Gomel, BSSR) is the Prime Minister of Belarus.
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