How Belarusian elections are rigged

Since Belarus gained independence, only the 1994 election was recognized as democratic and fair, although not without remarks. However, in the last 22 years not a single referendum or election – from deputies to the president – has been recognized by the international community. Many people in the country talking about it, but not all Belarusians know the details of the secret schemes of election commissions. Or do they want to know at all?

“Not the vote but the count is important” — the saying that has been around for more than a decade, but is still very topical for the post-Soviet space. And even more so for Belarus. After all, according to human rights activist Uladzimir Labkovich, in contrast to Russia, where a creative approach to the rigging is used with “carousels” or direct bribing of voters, in Belarus everything is simple — the total control of the vote count and the people who do it.

“Due to the full control over ballot papers during early voting and full control over the vote count, the figures in the report have nothing to do with the real will of the voters,” said Uladzimir Labkovich.

Former member of the precinct election commission #73 in Brest during the 2010 presidential election Ihar Barsuk shared with us his own example of how the authorities fix the necessary numbers in the elections. Our interlocutor claims that the violations began at the very start of his work in the committee: the Chairman was elected without Ihar’s presence, and only a part of the ballot papers was given to the members of the commission to sign. But the major violations took place after the vote count. After all Barsukou’s numbers were very different to  the results voiced by chairman of the commission.

“According to my calculations, Lukashenka received about 10% of the vote. I do not remember the details but about 9-10% were stolen from opposition candidates. Just like that, in front of the entire commission and observers,” says Ihar.

The scheme is running smoothly

At the request of Ihar Barsuk, the Commission recounted the votes, corrected figures. The active member of the commission wrote a note in the final protocol of the attempted fraud. He also asked his colleagues a rhetorical question

“After the counting, after the discovery of the falsifications, I told them, “What are you doing? You are depriving your children of the future!” And they just sat and looked at the table. Maybe, at that time they were already thinking of the banquet or something else. Did any of them even think about it? Maybe the society is in such state that they just do not hear, do not want to hear it,” said Ihar Barsuk.

What ordinary passers-by think?

Actually the question that bothers almost every specialist is: do people not know about the falsification, or do they not want to know?

“I fully trust Lukashenka. All my life I have believed him and voted for him. And I will continue to vote. For all his fans that he approves himself,” says a resident of Minsk. “I believe that if there is any falsification, it is very small,” said another man.

“If you look at the last presidential election … I do not believe in any elections anymore,” says the young woman.

“I think they are rigged,” sums up a passer-by talking to “Belsat”.

While 99% of the precinct election commissions members are from state-controlled entities, there can be no democracy of any kind.

Yury Salodki, Belsat, photo – Mikalay Pyatrou