Belarusian presidential election, 2006

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Belarusian presidential election, 2006
Belarus
2001 ←
19 March 2006
→ 2010

  Alex Lukashenko.jpeg Alaksandar Milinkievic.jpg
Nominee Alexander Lukashenko Alexander Milinkievič
Party Independent United Democratic Forces of Belarus
Popular vote 5,501,249 405,486
Percentage 84.4% 6.2%

President before election

Alexander Lukashenko

Elected President

Alexander Lukashenko

Coat of arms of Belarus.svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Belarus

The Belarusian presidential election of 2006 was held on 19 March. The result was a victory for incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko, who received 84.4% of the vote.[1] However, Western observers deemed the elections rigged. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) declared that the election "failed to meet OSCE commitments for democratic elections".[2] In contrast, election observers from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) described the vote as open and transparent.[citation needed]

Candidates[edit]

On 17 February 2006, the Central Election Commission approved the following list of candidates:

Former candidates[edit]

Preceding events[edit]

Both the European Parliament and United States Congress issued warnings that Belarus may expect more sanctions and similar punitive actions in the case of violation of human rights during the elections. The United States already has sanctions on Belarus due to past election issues, as stated in the Belarus Democracy Act of 2004, which also allows it to provide assistance to political parties and NGOs.[3] The CIS observer mission at the Belarusian presidential elections commented that "the negative statements made in the EU and the United States are attempts to create predetermined negative sentiments in the international community toward elections results in Belarus. Such actions towards a sovereign state hardly comply with standards of international law," according to the same election monitoring body.[4] The OSCE have also sent monitors to Belarus to observe the elections and to make sure the elections are free from any irregularities.

On 2 March 2006, opposition candidate Alaksandar Kazulin attempted to enter the third meeting of the All Belarusian People's Assembly, which was hosted by President Lukashenko. Security officers arrested and beat Kazulin, who was charged with disorderly conduct, and then held in custody for eight hours.[5]

In the build-up to the elections, several Georgians who were part of the OSCE observer team were intercepted by the Belarusian Frontier Guard and placed under custody. Lukashenko also announced that protests similar to what occurred during the Orange, Rose and Tulip revolutions will not take place in Belarus and states that "force will not be used" to claim the presidency.[6]

Results[edit]

On 19 March 2006 exit polls showed Lukashenko winning a third term in a landslide, amid opposition claims of vote-rigging and fear of violence.[7] The EcooM organization gave Lukashenko 84.2% of the vote and Milinkievich just 2 percent, while the Belarusian Committee of Youth Organizations gave Lukashenko 84.2% and Milinkievich 3.1 percent. The Gallup Organization has noted that EcooM and the Belarusian Committee of Youth Organizations are government-controlled and both released their exit poll results before noon on election day, although voting stations closed at 8 p.m.[8]

Candidate Party Votes %
Alexander Lukashenko Independent 5,501,249 84.4
Alexander Milinkievič United Democratic Forces of Belarus 405,486 6.2
Sergei Gaidukevich Liberal Democratic Party 230,664 3.5
Alaksandar Kazulin Belarusian Social Democratic Party 147,402 2.3
Against all 230,320 3.5
Invalid/blank votes 115,532
Total 6,630,653 100
Source: Nohlen & Stöver

Lukashenko was sworn in for his third term on 8 April 2006.

Reaction[edit]

Belarusian authorities[edit]

Belarusian authorities initially vowed to crush unrest in the event of large-scale protests following the election.[9] Since then, however, they have decided to use more subtle methods of attrition to subdue protesters.[10] Lukashenko declared victory and defeat of "The Jeans Revolution", promising not to jail Milinkevich and Kozulin.[11]

On 23 March the Constitutional Court of Belarus[12] rejected the opposition's appeals. Lukashenko will be inaugurated on Monday.

On 24 March Belarusian police broke up[13] days of protests in central Minsk against President Lukashenko's re-election, detaining about 460 demonstrators in an early hours swoop. The demonstrators had rejected police calls to leave the square, focus of the protests. They had erected tents and kept protesting round the clock despite sub-zero temperatures at night. One of the detained protesters called Reuters by mobile phone and said they were being taken to a pre-trial detention centre in the capital.

On 25 March riot police clashed with protesters, forcing demonstrators back and hitting several with truncheons.[14] One of the protesters was killed in the fight. Four explosions were heard, apparently percussion grenades set off by police. Many protesters were detained, including one of the opposition leaders, Alexander Kozulin, Russian news agencies reported. The main opposition leader, Alexander Milinkevich, denied reports by Russian news agencies that he himself was detained.

On 29 March Gazeta.ru reported that opposition leader Kozulin is arrested and can get up to 6 years in jail for organizing riots and hooliganism. Milinkevich can get 15 days for hooliganism.[15]

According to Moscow News,[16] two journalists of the Belarus state television channel allegedly beaten by opposition forces during an unsanctioned rally in Minsk are currently in hospital with severe injuries, RIA Novosti said Monday. Reporter of First Belarusian State Channel Mikhail Kristin has suffered a concussion, and cameraman Dmitry Chumak has a spine injury. Both are in hospital, the Belarusian State Television company said. The journalists were injured during the Saturday unrest in the Belarus capital. Members of opposition called it a lie.

Belarusian opposition[edit]

Mass opposition protests in Minsk on March 19

After the results were announced, a mass rally assembled in October Square in Minsk, waving the banned white-red-white flag of independent Belarus, the flag of the European Union, as well as flags of other countries such as Ukraine, Poland, Russia, Georgia, and even Armenia.

The crowd of demonstrators rallying after the election - estimated at 5,000 to 10,000 [17] - was the biggest the opposition had mustered in years. The next day a tent camp was erected on October Square in downtown Minsk. The number of participants in the opposition rally varied from 300 in the morning to 5,000 in the evening. The main opposition leaders had called for the protests to keep up until Saturday, when a major rally is expected, coinciding with the anniversary of the creation of first independent Belarusian republic in 1918.[18] Despite this, on Friday night riot police were dispatched to the site of the protest and 377 (460, according to other sources) participants and journalists were arrested, effectively dismantling the demonstration.[19] Most of the arrested people were sentenced to between 5 and 15 days in prison. There were Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, Canadian, and Georgian citizens among the arrested. The protests were documented in the movie "Kalinovski Square" by filmmaker Yury Khashchavatski.[20]

On Saturday tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets, as the police had closed off October Square. Opposition leader Alaksandar Kazulin was arrested. One of the demonstrators was killed when the riot police dispersed the crowd.

Western countries[edit]

The official OSCE report released on March 20, 2006, concluded that the presidential election failed to meet OSCE commitments for democratic elections. The OSCE, of which Belarus is a member, stated that Lukashenko permitted State authority to be used in a manner which did not allow citizens to freely and fairly express their will at the ballot box, and a pattern of intimidation and the suppression of independent voices was evident.[21]

On 21 March the United States stated that it believed that the election was rigged. In the words of White House spokesman Scott McClellan, "The United States does not accept the results of the election. We support the call for a new election."

Czech President Václav Klaus decided not to congratulate Lukashenko on re-election as president as "the course of the presidential elections on Sunday confirmed his fears for democracy in Belarus". Klaus previously criticized "very disputable circumstances of the parliamentary elections and the changes in the constitution that allowed Lukashenko to run for the post again after two election terms" in his open letter to Lukashenko last year. Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda proposed inviting opposition leader Alyaksander Milinkevich to the EU summit. As his proposal did not succeed he initiated invitation of Milinkevich to the European People's Party meeting that will take place prior the EU summit.[22]

According to the Czech News Agency, Jan Rybar, reporter of the Czech daily Mlada fronta Dnes, was attacked and beaten up at the opposition demonstration in Minsk. He said in his opinion he had been beaten up by agents of the Belarusian secret police KGB, but has no direct piece of evidence to prove it.[23][24]

On 23 March American diplomats evacuated[25] Vyacheslav Sivchik, one of the organizers of the opposition meeting, from Oktyabrskaya Square.

On 24 March EU leaders agreed at a summit to impose sanctions on Belarus leaders, including a possible travel ban on Lukashenko,[26] after his victory in a disputed presidential election on Sunday. Officials said Lukashenko had won more than 80% of the vote. A statement from the 25 leaders called the country "a sad exception ... on a continent of open and democratic societies" and said the election had violated democratic norms. "The European council has decided to take restrictive measures against those responsible for the violations of international electoral standards, including President Lukashenko," the Austrian foreign minister, Ursula Plassnik, said after the EU summit. She gave no details, but EU officials said measures being considered included visa bans on those accused of allegedly rigging the poll and possible asset freezes, but not economic sanctions against the former Soviet republic.

Lukashenko will be banned from entering the 25 nations of the EU - including Belarus' neighbours, Poland, Latvia and Lithuania - and from the US.[27] EU diplomats are drawing up a list of Belarusian officials who will be targeted by "smart sanctions" and final decisions will be taken on 10 April.

Russia[edit]

Russia considered the election results acceptable; the Russian Foreign Ministry declared the election fair, and Russian president Vladimir Putin called Lukashenko to congratulate him on his victory.[28]

The Russian Foreign Ministry condemned alleged OSCE bias, saying "The biased verdict of the OSCE, Europe's main election monitoring organization, on the presidential election in Belarus highlights the need to improve the process of observing polls, an official spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday. "We believe that the biased nature of the verdict of the monitoring mission has again confirmed the importance of beginning, at last, focused work to correct shortcomings in the election monitoring practice," Mikhail Kamynin said referring to a decision made by foreign ministers of the 55-nation security grouping in December last year.[29] On 24 March Sergey Lavrov accused OSCE of instigating tensions during the parliamentary election campaign in Belarus, claiming that "long before the elections, the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights had declared that they (the elections) would be illegitimate and it was pretty biased in its commentaries on their progress and results, thus playing an instigating role."[30] It was one of many Russian criticisms of the trans-Atlantic group's vote monitoring activities.

Pro-government press and organizations lauded the outcome as a defeat of "orange" political technologies,[31] whereas the liberal opposition traditionally condemned Lukashenko's actions. On March 26, about ten people from liberal movements and parties, joined by occasional passers-by, attempted to carry out an unsanctioned demonstration in support of the Belarusian opposition near the building of the Ministry of International Affairs, but were quickly dispersed by authorities.[32]

Reflecting a widespread belief among journalists, Russian commentator Piotr Parhomenko wrote in lenta.ru [33] that Lukashenko's decision to allow the opposition demonstration was a move calculated to divide the opposition, as Kozulin wanted to stop the protests while Milinkevich called for them to go on indefinitely.

Belarusian President's comment[edit]

According to a Belarusian news portal, Lukashenko himself stated that the "last Presidential elections were rigged; I already told this to the Westerners. [...] 93.5% voted for the President Lukashenko [sic]. They said it's not a European number. We made it 86. This really happened. And if [one is to] start recounting the votes, I don't know what to do with them. Before the elections they told us that if we showed the European numbers, our elections would be accepted. We were planning to make the European numbers. But, as you can see, this didn't help either."[34]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Nohlen, D & Stöver, P (2010) Elections in Europe: A data handbook, p262 ISBN 978-3-8329-5609-7
  2. ^ Republic of Belarus Presidential Election 19 March 2006: OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission Report OSCE
  3. ^ "US Congress imposes sanctions against Belarus over democracy issues". Pravda. 2004-10-06. 
  4. ^ "Foreign pressure in Belarus presidential election campaign - CIS observers". Interfax. 2006-02-21. 
  5. ^ "Belarus rally marred by arrests". BBC News. 2006-03-02. 
  6. ^ "Belarus' Lukashenko Vows to Stop Takeover". Yahoo! News. 2006-03-17.  (Link dead as of 15 January 2007)
  7. ^ "Lukashenko wins over 80% of vote - exit poll". Interfax. 2006-03-19. 
  8. ^ "Gallup/Baltic Surveys announces impossibility of independent and reliable exit polls under present conditions in Belarus :: Charter'97 :: News :: 20/03/2006". Charter97.org. 2006-03-20. Retrieved 2011-02-14. 
  9. ^ "Opposition Accuses Lukashenko of Manipulating Belarus Vote". Deutsche Welle. 2006-03-19. 
  10. ^ "Belarus protest enters fifth day, but Lukashenko stays firm". Yahoo! News. 2006-03-23.  (Link dead as of 15 January 2007)
  11. ^ "Александру Лукашенко стало тесно в Белоруссии". Izvestia. 2006-03-21.  (Russian)
  12. ^ "Мы уйдем в подполье". Gazeta.ru. 2006-03-24.  (Russian)
  13. ^ "Belarus breaks up opposition protests". Reuters. 2006-03-24.  (Link dead as of 15 January 2007)
  14. ^ "Belarus Police Detain Many Protesters". ABC News. 2006-03-25. 
  15. ^ "Ксйюьемйн Ме Кчаър Ндмх Ускхцюмш - Цюгерю.Ru". Gazeta.ru. Retrieved 2011-02-14. 
  16. ^ http://mosnews.com/news/2006/03/27/minskopposition.shtml
  17. ^ "Belarus: Protesters Charge Fraud in Belarus Presidential Vote". The New York Times. 2006-03-20. 
  18. ^ "Belarus poll rallies 'must go on'". BBC News. 2006-03-21. 
  19. ^ "Belarus Police Nab 200 at Election Protest". Yahoo! News. 2006-03-23.  (Link dead as of 15 January 2007)
  20. ^ Posted by FeathersMcGraw (2007-09-25). "Citizen Feathers.: "The Square" by Yury Khashchavatski". Feathersblog.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2011-02-14. 
  21. ^ "Presidential Election, Republic of Belarus". Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. 2006-03-20. 
  22. ^ "Klaus not to congratulate Lukashenko on re-election as president". Prague Daily Monitor. 2006-03-23. 
  23. ^ "Czech reporter beaten up at opposition demonstration in Minsk". Czech News Agency. 2006-03-20. 
  24. ^ "Czech journalist beaten in Minsk". Pravda. 2006-03-21. 
  25. ^ "Организатора митинга в Минске спасли американские дипломаты". Lenta.ru. 2006-03-24.  (Russian)
  26. ^ "EU sanctions as Belarus moves against protesters". London: The Guardian. 2006-03-24. Retrieved 2010-04-26. 
  27. ^ Castle, Stephen (2006-03-25). "Belarus 'dictator' banned from entering EU and US". London: The Independent. Retrieved 2010-04-26. 
  28. ^ "Putin congratulates Lukashenko on election victory". RIA Novosti. 2006-03-20. 
  29. ^ "Russian Foreign Ministry slams OSCE bias on Belarus poll". RIA Novosti. 2006-03-21. 
  30. ^ "Report: Russia accuses OSCE of instigating tensions in Belarus". Kyiv Post. 2006-03-24. 
  31. ^ ""Оранжевые" технологии в Белоруссии применимы, но неэффективны". RIA Novosti. 2006-03-21.  (Russian)
  32. ^ "Несанкционированную акцию в поддержку белорусской оппозиции(...)". Эхо Москвы. 2006-03-21.  (Russian)
  33. ^ Оерп Оюпунлемйн (2006-03-28). "А.Яяяп: Рюпсрхмяйхи Люмебп Ксйюьемйн". Lenta.ru. Retrieved 2011-02-14. 
  34. ^ БелаПАН (2006-11-23). "TUT.BY | НОВОСТИ - Лукашенко: Последние выборы мы сфальсифицировали - Политика - 23.11.2006, 14:49". News.tut.by. Retrieved 2011-02-14. 

External links[edit]