Belarusians' trouble with early voting
Early voting is a common practice in Belarus. It usually starts five days before the main election day and the government puts a lot of effort in making Belarusian citizens use this option. Who are the early voters? And why the procedure is criticised by independent observers?
This year, the early voting started on 6 October. Usually about 30% of the electorate vote before the official election day. The majority use polling stations at universities, state factories and other governmental institutions.
At every election in Belarus, the OSCE and local human rights defenders register violations of the electoral legislation. One of them is the “early voting” procedure.
Thousands of people are indirectly forced to vote. Students are a good example: if they vote early at university polling stations, they get four days off university. If they refuse – they lose their scholarships or rooms in dormitories.
A similar situation takes place in many governmental companies. The Belarusian Human Rights Center “Viasna” quotes a worker of the BelAZ-holding, a major manufacturer of mining equipment.
In connection with the upcoming important events, the management of our enterprise was urgently collecting information about employees. At first glance, it seems that there is nothing to worry about: the telephone number and home address, but it still feels unpleasant. But it's not just that! For more than a week already they have been pressurizing us: obligatory go to the elections and vote early. There is also a small “reward” - people are issued with paid absence leaves for several hours so that they would vote early. Low-rank managers justify themselves by saying they were ordered to do it, while they were only executors”.
Danger of election fraud
Lidia Yermoshina, head of the Central Election Commission, explains how the procedure is for the good of citizens: “We have to fight for votes, we cannot reject the possibility to vote at a convenient time and in a convenient form for them”.
In fact, early voting is an easy way to control people and check if they really cast their vote. Using this option, the government reaches the required minimum of votes relatively easily. Thus, the election gets legitimated. But the critics' main concern is that it is impossible to control what is happening with the ballot box during nights, when they are left under supervision of policemen. This situation gives possibilities to manipulate both the ballots and protocols.
This year, data gathered after 3 days of voting indicates that 19% of eligible voters have already cast their votes.
Check out the photo story about the early voting in dormitories.