Aleksandr Lukashenko holds meeting to discuss election legislation improvement

    Changes of the election legislation should be approached from the point of view of their advisability, necessity. Whether the Belarusian society needs the changes should be evaluated while forgetting all the politicized, contrived tenets and views enforced from the outside. President of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko made the statement at the government session held on 31 January to discuss the improvement of the election legislation.

    Opening the session, the head of state remarked that an agreement had been made once to discuss all the proposals, statements, and complaints about the election system.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko reminded that an Election Code has been in place in Belarus since 2000. It has been used to hold four parliamentary election campaigns and one national referendum, three presidential elections, and three elections of members of local councils. “Despite reproaches from our opponents the elections have been held in line with the Election Code. They were honest, open, and managed to secure the expression of the Belarusian nation’s will. It means that all in all we have developed a legal mechanism to organize and hold elections. It works rather smoothly and effectively,” stressed the head of state.

    Yet the President believes that like any procedure the mechanism cannot be left in an unchanged, stiff form. “However, its improvement should not entail the destruction of the already established and steadily operating institutions,” believes Aleksandr Lukashenko.

    The President remarked that the matter had been discussed with the Presiding Judge of the Constitutional Court earlier that day. “No legal act can be passed once and for all. Life is changing rapidly. This is why legal acts should try to keep up with the vigorously changing flows of our life. While allowing some changes of the election process, we should base our decisions on life situations. We should ask ourselves whether we need it, whether there are problems and what problems those are,” said the head of state. Aleksandr Lukashenko cited a simple example: “There is an opinion that public organizations should be given the right to nominate candidates for deputies. First, we have thousands of public organizations. Second, why do we have to do it? Do we have a shortage of nominated candidates? Are candidates for deputies in short supply? They are not. Why do we have to make such suggestions then? Do we do it to make someone like us or to anticipate something?”

    According to the head of state, “It is these life considerations that should be used to approach these or those changes and additions”.

    “Let’s approach the changes evaluating the advisability, the necessity of this or that change, whether or not our society needs them in order to avoid creating some problems for us,” said the head of state.

    In his opinion, the improvement of the election laws should be aimed at taking measures to enable citizens to realize their election rights in full while counteracting attempts to disorganize elections. The head of state believes that the present Election Code can do the job for now. “We have held top-notch elections. Let’s forget the partisan opinions voiced by some of our opponents and look at the real picture, opinions of our well-wishers and neutral people. They envy the level of the elections held in Belarus. Everyone says that the elections are not only serious elections of the civil society, the elections are also a red-letter day for the people,” said the President.

    “We can also take a closer look at the OSCE recommendations made after monitoring the parliamentary elections in 2012. However, it does not mean that we agree with all the OSCE views,” stressed Aleksandr Lukashenko. “We understand perfectly well what the OSCE people want from us. We know it perfectly well, we have experienced it in practice. This is why, while responding to their remarks, naturally there are some normal remarks, we should see what’s behind these suggestions,” believes Aleksandr Lukashenko.

    The President emphasized that it is necessary to remember that the national legislation in Belarus is being improved keeping in mind only interests of the Belarusian society, not someone else’s bidding. “The Belarusian saying comes to mind: you can listen to people but should have your own reasoning,” added the head of state.

    “We should forget all the politicized, contrived tenets and views enforced from the outside. Meanwhile, we should carefully analyze the proposals, which meet our national interests and we can accept today,” remarked the head of state.

    In essence the government session turned into a discussion about prospects of developing the election laws. Proposals of the Central Commission of Belarus for Elections and National Referenda were discussed as well as recommendations by experts of international institutions, including the OSCE.

    Chairwoman of the Central Election Commission (CEC) Lidia Yermoshina aired her views as well as Head of the Belarus President Administration Andrei Kobyakov, Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei, Chairman of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly Vladimir Andreichenko, State Secretary of the Security Council Leonid Maltsev, Minsk Oblast Governor Boris Batura and other participants of the session. Virtually the same people had discussed the improvement of election laws the day before but since no common view had been reached on many issues, the discussion had been upgraded to the level of the head of state.

    All the proposals to improve the election laws were discussed in detail. Participants of the meeting agreed that it was necessary to polish some matters a bit more and prepare a package of documents. The bill on amending the Election Code will be the key document.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko charged the Belarus President Administration with working out coordinated proposals taking into account results of the session and asked heads of the parliament to get involved in the process. The relevant bill has to be ready in May 2013. After that it will be submitted for consideration of the head of state for the sake of bringing it into the parliament.

    “Changing something is not the goal today. We are discussing legislation improvement. It is, by the way, something I promised after the latest elections. We will look at proposals and if something suits us today, we will run with it. There are proposals that can be agreed with. New ones may emerge,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.

    After the session Lidia Yermoshina remarked that the document should take into account national interests and international standards as much as possible.

    As far as conceptual matters are concerned, the majority of the participants spoke against the idea of allowing national public organizations to nominate candidates for deputies. The CEC head believes that among other things the refusal to allow it will satisfy the political opponents, who had actively argued against the idea.

    Other CEC initiatives received overall support. Those are, in particular, the transition to the simple majority at parliamentary elections as early as the first round. It will allow simplifying the election campaign and reducing expenses.

    The proposal to raise personal election funds of candidates and permit such funds for candidates for deputies of local councils was also discussed.

    Several proposals were voiced concerning the introduction of preemptive measures in pre-election campaigning, including measures against the boycott procedure. Participants of the session agreed with the CEC statement that such activities are disruptive for elections. The activity cannot be part of pre-election campaigning and cannot be performed by candidates for deputies. It is remarkable that, for instance, the Convention on standards of democratic elections, election rights and freedoms in the CIS member states refers to a prohibition to boycott elections.

    Participants of the session backed the proposal to make candidates pay for getting leaflets and posters made instead of using state budget funds for it. The money to be released is supposed to be transferred to election committees for the sake of enabling better awareness of voters about their candidates. The proposal has been necessitated by complaints about the lack of information on the eve of elections.

    Apart from that, the rules that regulate local elections at the level of councils of deputies may be changed. Several legal acts will have to be corrected to make it happen.