Conduct and outcomes: digest of the 2016 parliament elections

The Belarusian elections concluded on 11 September. They were condemned as “not corresponding to a number of key international standards” and “not a credible reflection of the will of Belarusian citizens” by the domestic election-monitoring groups “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections (HRD)” and “Right to Choose-2016 (R2C)”.

The findings of domestic observers corresponded to those by observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which emphasised in its preliminary conclusions the “long-standing systemic shortcomings” of the elections as well as “serious procedural deficiencies, inconsistencies and irregularities were observed during early voting, counting and tabulation.”

By some measures the organisation of the elections could have been worse. Some may cite improved rates of registration for opposition candidates, expanded debates on state TV, or the much touted ‘reforms’ to ensure observers would be able to stand within three metres of the counting table and that at least one side of the table would be unobstructed.

Unfortunately, as observers’ reports make clear, such improvements amount to little more than a veneer over a highly flawed election featuring massive voter turnout inflation and culminating in the same nontransparent and questionable vote count reported in past elections. Domestic observer groups captured concrete evidence of massive nationwide efforts to inflate turnout totals during the five-day early vote period (6-10 September ) and on election day (11 September ). The Central Election Commission (CEC) stated parliamentary turnout was 74.8 percent, but observer reports particularly from parallel turnout counts suggest voter turnout was far lower.

In the first days of the early vote period, observers noted many cases of forced or incentivised voting in which students, convicts or state workers were subject to pressure from administrators or managers to cast an early ballot. As the elections progressed, there were reports of “carousel voting,ballot stuffing, and a significant number of unsecured ballot boxes.

The most significant form of turnout inflation was conducted through blatant protocol manipulations in which turnout was artificially increased. The joint election monitoring coalition of political parties, R2C covered every polling station in nine specific parliamentary districts. This allowed them to conduct a parallel turnout count and document artificial turnout inflation at the precinct and district-wide level.

As the following chart shows in seven of the nine districts observed by R2C, their observer reports conclusively show the elections were invalid because they failed to reach the 50 percent turnout threshold (see a R2C table below).

Tell the Truth observers conducted a full parallel turnout count in Oktyabrskiy district #97. This is the much discussed district of Tell the Truth candidate Tacciana Karatkievič, a former presidential candidate and United Civic Party (UCP) candidate Hanna Kanapackaja, who was selected to serve in parliament.

According to observer data the total turnout for the district was 40.6 percent, nearly ten percent below the required turnout threshold, which if not met requires a new election. The commission reported turnout at 59.7 percent. Tell the Truth’s count uses official turnout for mobile voting since observers could not observe the procedure and assumes 100 percent turnout in two polling stations where observers were stripped of accreditation.

In their final report, the civic election observation group Human Rights Defenders (HRD) shows how turnout discrepancies between PECs and observers’ turnout counts skyrocketed during the last day of early vote as commissions, particularly in Minsk, faced the looming possibility of failing to reach the required turnout threshold. R2C parallel turnout counts show similar pattern of surging artificial turnout in some of their observed districts on the last days of early voting as exemplified in the following chart.

Both HRD and R2C reports showed that final efforts to ensure a high turnout were made on election day through abuse of mobile voting mechanisms. At Oktyabrskiy district #97, polling station #230, a Tell the Truth observer claimed the PEC had two lists of mobile voters and the discrepancy between the two constituted 176 people. In district #85 in Mahilioŭ, R2C noted that 12.8 percent of voters (7,981) cast their ballot by mobile ballot boxes on election day.

95.31 percent of their observers described the vote count as not transparent

The third major point of observer concerns in addition to organised voting and inflated turnout, was the vote count and tabulation process, which was described by HRD as “non-transparent for observers,” by R2C as “an unacceptable system” and by OSCE, which emphasised that the “tabulation process was assessed negatively, primarily due to procedural irregularities and a lack of transparency.”

Two of the CEC’s touted reforms, allowing observers to be three metres from the counting table and promising that the observers would have a clear view of one side of the table were not followed consistently. Even when PECs left one side of the table unobstructed and allowed observers to monitor the vote count from the three-metre distance, the transparency of counting process remained flawed.

The OSCE preliminary report stated, “ballots were counted by each PEC member separately rather than collectively,” thus making it difficult for observers to understand the votes allocated to a particular candidate. The decision not to count “collectively” – by holding up a ballot and announcing the results – did not come as a surprise, as the CEC Chair had announced before the election that this form of counting is not provided for in the law.

HRD concluded that 95.31 percent of their observers described the vote count as not transparent, particularly since observers were unable to see the content of ballots due to their distance from the count and the chaotic nature of the counting table. On election day, Tell the Truth observers who covered 27 of the 29 precincts in district #97 where UCP candidate Hanna Kanapackaja was selected for the parliament, described the count as “not transparent” in 22 of the polling places.

Efforts to control and verify the vote count were further complicated when observers were ejected from polling stations prior to the count. Reasons for dismissal included “creating a nervous atmosphere” and “drinking.” R2C reported 30 incidents of observers being barred from PECs on election day.

Polling station #2 in Kalinkavičy (HRD) Polling station #46 in Viciebsk (R2C)

After twelve years, opposition to the parliament: what does it mean?

Much of the attention following these elections has centred around the surprise move of the authorities to select two opposition candidates for the parliament, ending a twelve year opposition hiatus from parliament. The two candidates who were selected to assume seats in parliament are independent candidate Aliena Anisim and United Civic Party (UCP) candidate Hanna Kanapackaja.

The conventional wisdom suggests placement of two oppositionists in parliament was a “gift to the west” in hopes Belarus might receive a more positive assessment of the elections and as a result speed a recent warming of relations. Foreign analysts described the move as an act of financial desperation to secure loans. If the parliamentary policy shift was indeed meant to improve perceptions of Belarus abroad, then the short term results are mixed.

The move has generated a series of positive stories in Reuters, Time, Associated Press and other western media suggesting that the political placement of opposition in the parliament is a sign of an improved electoral process in Belarus. This will likely be welcomed by the Belarusian authorities and may be promoted as a significant achievement by those advocating closer ties with Belarus and the West for any number of reasons.

Hanna Kanapackaja’s selection for the parliament was far from predictable 

It seems, however, to have had no significant effect on the assessment of elections provided by experts, as in the OSCE’s preliminary election report or the post-election statement by the US State Department in Minsk. These more appropriately focused on the overall conduct of the elections, which deeply flawed.

In addition to speculations of how Lukashenka is using the appointments in his geopolitical balancing game, there is internal speculation as to the reasons these two parliamentarians were selected. Aliena Anisim was discussed as a potential selectee to the parliament after the sudden withdrawal of the leading government candidate. Hanna Kanapackaja’s selection for the parliament, however, was far from predictable.

Her party, UCP, is a traditional opposition party described as populist and provocative by the authorities and whose long time leader Anatoĺ Liabiedźka was imprisoned after the 2010 elections. Kanapackaja’s opponents included a government candidate, who was promoted through state media, and former presidential candidate from Tell the Truth, Tacciana Karatkievič, who some believed would be given the seat. A blog post by political scientist Ihar Drako published three days before the election titled “How to ‘Finish’ Karatkievič” accurately predicted Kanapackaja’s victory.

Drako described the government’s likely the motives as 1) to show the west the opposition made it to parliament, 2) to mute local critics like UCP and 3) to diminish the political status and influence of Karatkievič, but to do so by letting another opposition candidate, rather than the authorities, defeat her. Former parliamentarian Siarhiej Skrabiec attributed her selection to added leverage the authorities would have over her because of her and her families business success, “if she would press the wrong button, not only her business would be under threat, but also the business of her father, her friends…”

Profiles of the two opposition parliamentarians

The first of the two selected candidates, Aliena Anisim, ran as an independent candidate in her native Staŭbcoŭski district #70 in Minsk region. Anisim is a respected linguist and part of the national-orientated intelligentsia. She works as Deputy Chair at the “Belarusian Language Society” and at the Linguistics Institute of the Academy of Sciences.

Anisim also hosted the program “Belarusian Language” on the state TV channel ONT. She was born in 1962 to a family of teachers. She studied at the philological faculty of Belarusian State University, and was active in the youth union “Majsternia,” one of the first Belarusian organisations (1980s) aimed at revival of Belarusian language and traditions.

The second opposition candidate, United Civic Party (UCP) member Hanna Kanapackaja​ was born in 1976. She is a lawyer and the owner of a successful private legal firm. She has been a UCP member since 1995 when the party held its first founding convention.

She ran at Oktyabrskiy district #97 in Minsk. Her father Anatol Truchanovič, also a UCP member, is a businessman and was among the first official millionaires in Belarus. Kanapackaja's parliamentary campaign was primarily built around UCP’s national platform “Million New Jobs” and was supported by her professional background as a successful business owner and lawyer.

Both candidates announced they will accept their seats in parliament. In her first interviews after elections, Anisim declared that she will initiate a law on state support for the Belarusian language and ask parliament to found a national university with Belarusian the language of instruction. Aliaksiej Janukievič, head of the Belarussian Popular Front (BPF party) revealed his excitement at the new opportunities presented by Anisim’s success to advance the status of the Belarusian language.

Kanapackaja stated that she will use her mandate to implement UCP’s proposals and will work in parliament as a party member. She plans to propose amendments to improve electoral legislation so more opposition candidates could get into the parliament. She will seek the realisation of the “One Million New Jobs” program, including changes in entrepreneurship and unemployment tax laws and public administration.

Kanapackaja announced she would take the parliamentary seat only after extensive consultations with UCP party leadership. During a September 13 press conference announcing her decision, Kanapackaja​ stated there are no free elections in Belarus, but if such elections were held, she would win her seat. In a Facebook post she went further citing problems with manipulated turnout and a non-transparent vote count.

Kanapackaja stated that she will use her mandate to implement UCP’s proposals and will work in parliament as a party member

UCP did not conduct observation at her district, though Tell the Truth did, and according to their observers, as noted previously, the count was highly non-transparent, and turnout failed to reach the threshold required by the election code. Tacciana Karatkievič, her competitor from Tell the Truth, did not contest the results and instead urged Kanapackaja to take the seat and work in the Parliament.

Composition of the new parliament

Anisim and Kanapackaja will be joined in the parliament by a who’s who of bureaucratic insiders representing state hospitals, regional executive committees, the military, state schools and other aspects of the authorities structure. Ninety six percent of selected parliamentarians were predicted to take their seats by the independent media Naša Niva.

Sixteen of the 110 parliamentarians will represent five parties, including UCP, and the Belarusian Patriotic Party headed by former pro-governmental presidential candidate and Cossack Ataman Mikalaj Ulachovič. The absolute majority of MPs are non-party. Seventy-three MPs are members of the pro-governmental association “Belaja Ruś” association. It is rumored “Belaja Ruś​” will transition to a political party in the future.

In keeping with tradition, the parliament will have a relatively high percentage of female parliamentarians at 35 percent. Twenty seven of 28 incumbent MPs retained their seats.

 

Michael P. Murphy & Juljan Jachovic

National Democratic Institute (NDI)




Sanctions Suspended, Belarusian Airlines, Warsaw Conference – Ostrogorski Centre Digest

In the past month, Belarus’s authorities have continued to benefit from balancing between east and west.

The EU suspended sanctions against Belarus in response to the nonviolent presidential election, and in the east Belarus continues to enjoy the benefits of Russia-Ukraine tensions.

Igar Gubarevich analyzes the steps the foreign ministry took to use the presidential elections as a tool to strengthen the positive relations trend between Belarus and the West. In another article he shows how Belarus’s national air carrier, Belavia​, tries to profit from the suspension of air traffic between Ukraine and Russia.

In his analysis of recent alcohol policies, Vadzim Smok shows that despite a huge problem with alcoholism in Belarus, the authorities seem unwilling to introduce consistent anti-alcohol measures. They effectively use it both as a tool to calm social discontent and a lucrative revenue source.

Comments for the Media

Ryhor Astapenia explains what the results of the Polish parliamentary elections mean to Belarus on TUT.by portal and Polish Radio. The new Polish government will focus on supporting the Polish minority in Belarus, but the financing for Belarusian civil society will remain at the same level.

French TV channel BFM Business highlights the article “Belarus and Russian Food Embargo: a Success Story” by Igar Gubarevich in its programme “La librairie de l’Eco”. In the article Ihar Gubarevich explains that Belarus’ success in becoming the primary beneficiary of the Russian food embargo has been a complex mixture of hard work, honest entrepreneurship and cunning scheming.

Ryhor Astapenia explains to Polish Radio divisions within the Belarusian nomenklatura. Although Soviet cadres loyal to Lukashenka will remain in the new government, he will need some reformists and well-educated people to balance the older generation.

Igar Gubarevich talks on Polish Radio about the foreign policy implications of the 2015 presidential elections in Belarus. The authorities offered to allow peaceful elections in exchange for some lifting of sanctions, and the west eventually accepted this compromise.

Igar Gubarevich published an article about the EU’s decision to suspend sanctions against the Belarusian regime in Emerging Europe, a British online business portal. As the Belarusian government will seek the full withdrawal of sanctions, the European Union and the United States should use the current momentum to press the regime into implementing further measures of political and economic liberalisation, Igar suggests.

Ryhor Astapenia comments on the perspectives for economic reforms in Belarus for thinktanks.by web-site and Polish Radio. The authorities are unwilling to pursue reforms, yet if they wish to receive an IMF loan they will have to implement a number of them, the expert says.

The East Journal, an Italian publication focusing on Eastern Europe and Asia, quotes an article by Volha Charnysh. In the article Volha shows how authorities manipulate early voting to facilitate electoral fraud.

Belarus Profile

BelarusProfile.com database now includes the following personalities: Jury Šaŭcoŭ, Hleb Šymanovič, Aliaksej Lastoŭski, Arsień Sivicki, Aliaksandr Špakoŭski, Ivan Halavaty, Uladzimir Tracciakoŭ, Maksim Mirny, Anton Kušnir, Alhierd Bacharevič.

We have also updated the profiles of Sviatlana ​Alieksijevič, Aliaksandr Hura, Siarhiej Hajdukievič, Vadzim Hihin, Valiancin Holubieŭ, Siarhej Darafiejeŭ, Andrej Dzmitryjeŭ, Darja Domračava, Siarhej Dubkoŭ, Siarhej Dubaviec, Andrej Dyńko, Marat Žylinski, Uladzimir Zinoŭski, Valier Ivanoŭ, Andrej Kazakievič, Anatol Kalinin, Paviel Kalaur, Tacciana Karatkievič, Andrej Karol, Valier Karbalievič.

Belarus Policy

The Ostrogorski Centre continues to update the database of policy papers BelarusPolicy.com. The papers added this month include:

Other developments

Siarhei Bohdan, senior analyst at the Ostrogorski Centre, on 4 November 2015 spoke in Warsaw at the conference “25 Years of the Charter of Paris. How to Renew Commitment, Fulfil Expectations, and Revive the OSCE.”

The high-level conference was organised by the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM) and the German Federal Academy for Security Policy (BAKS) with the support of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the German Federal Foreign Office in Warsaw.

Other speakers included Grzegorz Schetyna, Štefan Füle, Michael Link, ambassadors and senior officials.

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Belaruspolicy.com, Elections, Alexievich – Ostrogorski Centre Digest

The Ostrogorski Centre, the organisation behind Belarus Digest, starts publishing regular updates about its activities, including new projects, and comments by its analysts.

During the the first half of October Belarus saw two major events: the presidential elections and the first ever Nobel prize awarded to Svetlana Alexievichin literature.

Volha Charnysh shows how the Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich is perceived in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine and reveals how the authorities manipulated the early voting procedure to get the right result.

In his analysis of Belarus elections, Ryhor Astapienia concludes that despite the predictability of presidential elections and unfair vote counts, its results may indicate a significant drop in public support for Aliaksandr Lukashenka. David Marples and Uladzimir Padhol analyze the conduct of independent opinion polls in Belarus.

New Developments

  • On 1 October, the Ostrogorski Centre in partnership with the Belarus Research Council launched the belaruspolicy.com database. The database features policy papers produced by Belarusian think tanks. Currently the database contains around 250 papers prepared by 15 organisations with short summaries in Belarusian, Russian and English.
  • A Delegation of the Ostrogorski Centre, including Yaraslau Kryvoi, Ryhor Astapienia, Alieś Aliachnovič and Vadzim Smok, took part in the Fifth International Congress of Belarusian Studies, the largest Belarusian annual academic and expert event with a focus on social sciences and humanities.
  • On 9 – 12 October, Belarus Digest provided live online coverage of the presidential elections in Belarus and international and domestic reactions to it.

Comments for the Media

  • Ryhor Astapenia writes about the situation before the election in Belarus for Carnegie Europe
  • Yaraslau Kryvoi took part in a BBC Russian service programme dedicated to the presidential elections in Belarus (in Russian)​
  • Siarhei Bohdan comments for Frankfurter Rundschau on the possible establishment of a Russian airbase in Belarus (in German)
  • Vadzim Smok comments on the situation around the Belarus​ian elections to the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet (in Swedish)
  • Yaraslau Kryvoi, Igar Gubarevich and Vadzim Smok were interviewed by the correspondent of Danish newspaper Jullands Posten on the developments around the presidential elections in Belarus
  • Devin Ackles on opendemocracy.net writes about the opportunity of Belarus to come out of isolation after the presidential elections.
  • Igar Gubarevich talks to Radyjo Racyja (Poland) about current Belarusian foreign policy (in Belarusian)
  • Siarhei Bohdan discusses with Polish Radio the situation with a possible Russian airbase in Belarus (in Belarusian)
  • ​Yaraslau Kryvoi commented on Belarus’s presidential elections for Lithuania Public Radio (in Lithuanian)
  • Alies Aliakhnovich explaines to Polish Radio why economic reforms are inevitable for the Belarusian authorities (in Belarusian)
  • Yaraslau Kryvoi and Igar Gubarevich discussed the presidential elections on Czech Radio (in Czech)
  • Siarhei Bohdan participates in a discussion at tut.by media portal about the conflict in Syria, its repercussions for Belarus and changes in Belarusian foreign policy caused by wars in the Middle East (in Belarusian/Russian).

Belarus Profile

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Belarusians Go to the Polls Early – Belarus Photo Digest

More than a third of Belarusians will have cast their ballots before the official Election Day on 11 October. The authorities are encouraging early voting because the results can be more easily manipulated.

Early voters include students, urged to cast ballots before the official election day by the university administration; government employees, as well as pensioners. At some polling stations, early voters received prizes for their participation.

Independent observers have filed numerous complaints about the electoral process. Their estimates of the early turnout differ from the official estimates by 5 percent. At some polling stations the divergence between observers’ estimates and the turnout announced by the authorities were much larger.

Some independent observers were barred from entering polling stations on the pretext that the official vote does not start until Sunday.

Addressing voters in social networks, Presidential candidate Tatsiana Karatkevich urged voters to wait until the official election day. In the 2010 election, the pro-democratic opposition demanded that the results of the early vote be annulled due to widespread fraud.

A bulletin board in Minsk with information about the main electoral candidates: Tatsiana Karatkevich, Siarhej Haidukievich, Mikalai Ulachovich, and incumbent president Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

A school gym is decorated for the 2015 presidential election.

A pensioner casts her ballot on October 9, two days before the official election day.

All ballots are decorated with Belarus’s coat of arms.

A woman leaves the polling booth.

A woman demonstrates an empty ballot.

An elderly man casts his vote early.

A woman and her son cast their vote early.

An old woman waits to receive her ballot as her documents are verified.

Pensioners are casting their votes.

A sign leading to the room for early voters.

A sign announcing the official election day, 11 October, in Minsk.

About 1,000 people attended a rally against a Russian military base in Belarus on October 4, one week before the election.

A man attended the Sunday rally wearing a shirt that encouraged boycotting the presidential election. The writing on his shirt reads, “Lukashenka leave! Return what you have stolen! Boycott.”

Belarusian children riding bikes decorated with Belarusian flags.

About the photographer: Siarhei Leskiec is a freelance photographer whose work focuses on everyday life, folk traditions, and rituals in the Belarusian countryside. Originally from Maladzeczna region, he received a history degree from Belarusian State Pedagogical University.




Early Voting: the Secret to a Successful Authoritarian Election?

The official date for Belarus’s presidential election is 11 October. But if past elections are any guide, every third Belarusian will vote during the so-called “early voting” period, between 6 and 10 October.

In fact, 30 percent of Belarusians cast their ballots by the evening of 9 October, according to the Central Election Commission of Belarus.

It is a well-known secret that early ballots facilitate electoral fraud. Unsurprisingly, districts with higher prevalence of early voting in the 2010 presidential election demonstrated not only greater turnout, but also greater support for President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. But we know little about the parts of Belarus where citizens turn out to vote early. Examining the distribution of the early vote in the 2010 presidential election reveals some interesting patterns.

The media frequently cites students, “herded” to the ballot boxes by university administrators, as the main victims of early voting pressures. Yet in the 2010 election remote agricultural districts with larger elderly population and with lower education levels demonstrated the greatest incidence of early voting. Such remote rural locations fall under the radar of international election observers.

Who votes early?

Only a small percentage of Belarusian voters who reside or permanently stay abroad cast absentee ballots in Belarusian elections. Voters inside Belarus cast many more early ballots.

Indeed, any citizen can vote early – no proof of being unable to vote on the official election day is required. This may explain why Belarusian pensioners, who would appear to have fewer time constraints than the working-age population, constitute an important group of early voters.

Students vote early under the pressure of university administrators. This week, Poland-based Belarusian language TV channel Belsat reported that at polling station number 52 in Minsk, located in one of the Belarusian State University dorms, every third student voted on the very first day of early voting. Early voting is also widespread among the police, military, and government officials, urged to vote by their employers.

Getting out the Early Vote

Interpreting the official electoral results based on early voting cannot reveal the true levels of support for the incumbent president or the opposition candidates. Nonetheless, district-level figures on early voting in the 2010 election, published by the Central Electoral Committee, do tell an interesting story about the regional dynamics of elections.

In the 2010 election, 32 percent of Belarusians voted early. The share of early ballots was largest in provincial areas. In Minsk, a city with over 30 institutions of higher education and a student population of nearly 200 thousand, only 22 percent of votes were cast early, which is below the national average.

At the district level, early ballots represented anywhere between 13 percent in Baranovichi district in southwest Belarus and 50 percent in Krasnapolle in southeast Belarus.

Krasnapolle is a remote agricultural district in eastern Belarus. Its centre, a sleepy town of six thousand, lies 52 kilometres away from the nearest railway station and 120 km away from the nearest regional centre, Mahileu.

According to the official electoral results, 89 percent of Krasnapolle voters supported Lukashenka in 2010. As the elections commenced, local authorities organised numerous festivals and celebrations to encourage participation.

Nine other districts where nearly half of all ballots were cast early in 2010 are Byeshankovichy, Bykhaw, Dubrowna, Kas'tsyukovichy, Ms'tsislaw, Pastavy, Shchuchyn, Shumilina, and Voranava. Like Krasnopole, these districts lie far away from Minsk and specialise in agriculture.

All districts with high incidence of early voting have higher shares of pensioners. Lukashenka’s most devout supporters; the elderly need no pressure to vote early. In the 2010 data, 10 percent increase in the share of the population above working age is associated with 7 percent increase in the share of early ballots from the total number of ballots cast.

The share of the early vote also correlates with the share of the population with secondary education at the district level. Areas with just ten percent more people with university diplomas have a 5 percent lower share of the early vote.

What explains the negative relationship between education level and early voting? One possibility is that people with lower education have fewer outside employment options and face greater risks for disobeying employer orders. Another possibility is that people with college degrees are less likely to support Lukashenka and therefore do not turn out to vote early, or at all.

Why vote early?

The state goes to great lengths to encourage early voting. In Minsk, Belarusians are reminded that they can perform their civic duty any day even while riding the metro to work.

This year’s notable early voters included the head of the Presidential Staff Marianna Schetkina and the head of the Central Electoral Commission Lidzia Yarmoshyna. Surrounded by a crowd of journalists as she cast her ballot, Yarmoshyna said that while some observers and journalists frown upon early voting, the Belarusian people “come to vote early with pleasure.”

At polling station number 48 in Minsk, where Yarmoshyna was casting her ballot on 7 October, first-time voters as well as voters with children received presents, including watches and crystal bowls and ornaments sponsored by Minsk-Arena.

It is no secret that Belarus encourages early voting because it facilitates the manipulation of the electoral outcome. The Belarusian legislation requires nothing more than the presence of at least two members of the precinct election commission for the early ballots to be valid.

As of 5 October, Belarusian Electoral Commission accredited 910 international observers to monitor the 2015 presidential election. Of these, 382 observers represent the Commonwealth of Independent States and 344 observers represent the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Pro-Lukashenka political parties and organisations within Belarus supplied another 28,578 observers.

An observer was sent home on the pretext that her accreditation documents mentioned only the official Election Day 11 October

The international observers have started trickling into the country as the election began, but most will arrive to monitor on the official election day. Few will reach remote rural areas such as Krasnopolle, especially within the early voting period.

Domestic observers who do arrive at the polling stations during the early voting period encounter unexpected obstacles. Volha Katsiankova, an accredited observer from Conservative Christian Party of the Belarusian People's Front, visited the polling station located in Minsk’s School No. 7 on 8 October. She was sent home on the pretext that her accreditation documents mentioned only the official Election Day, 11 October.

The few observers who manage to penetrate register numerous irregularities. Just a day into early voting this year, observers from the “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections” campaign, organised by the Human Right Center “Viasna,” along with the RHRPA “Belarusian Helsinki Committee,” have pointed out that their turnout estimates differed by 5.5 per cent from those provided by the authorities.

Many more violations will be revealed as the election continues. But whatever the final tally of votes, Lukashenka seems to have won the remote agricultural districts with elderly uneducated population well before the official election day.