The parliamentary elections have been over; international observers have left the country. The Belarusian authorities are bringing to justice those involved in pre-election pickets, saying that the events were unauthorized.
On November 8, some opposition candidates held a rally and meeting of critics of the government. Plainclothes policemen broke the picketers’ loudspeaker and detained many of them. On December 2, Dzyanis Krasachka, a member of the United Civic Party, got a fine of 612.5 Belarusian rubles for staging the event.
“They want to curry favour with top officials, rise through the ranks and report to the president who said that one should give hell to [independent election] observers. At the rally, I urged people to join observers,” Krasachka told Belsat.
Interestingly, there is no legal requirement to ask for permission to hold a pre-election picket; one should only inform the local executive committee of the date and venue.
After the elections, Central Election Commission Chairperson Lidziya Yarmoshyna boasted: “Many people had the opportunity to freely express their thoughts through public media, through the holding of free meetings and pickets, public events. These numbers are encouraging! “
But inspiration seems to have left Belarus together with international observers. More than 20 persons are being tried or will stand trial over participating in or holding pickets during the electoral campaign. On December 2, the court imposed fines on activists Nina Bahinskaya, Volha Nikalaichyk and Leanid Kulakou. Each of them will have to pay 1,225 rubles to the state budget.
The authorities are aiming at the inhibition of ‘street activity’, Belarusian olitical commentator Alyaksandr Klaskouski believes.
“They are seeking to to weaken this wave with the help of arrests and fines, to scary people so that there would not be mass protests during the 2020 presidential elections. It is the mass protests that the regime is afraid most. They do not want the repeating of what happened in the course of the 2010 elections, when they did not hesitate to disperse the protesters in the square, grab hundreds of people and put them behind bars,” the expert stressed.
According to human rights defender Valyantsin Stefanovich, the authorities gave the courts a go-ahead after a number of organizations said the elections had not met important international standards for democratic elections.