The Republic of Belarus is an authoritarian presidential state. Its current president, Alexander Lukashenko, has been in office since July 1994. Ever since the parliamentary elections of November 2019, the parliament is once again fully occupied by government loyalists. Official results state that all 110 parliamentary seats were won by government functionaries, diplomats and pro-government parties after an apparent 77 per cent voter turnout, meaning that the new parliament will have no members of the opposition in it. The Communist Party of Belarus holds 11 seats, the Republican Party of Labour and Justice holds 6, the Belarusian Patriotic Party 2, the Liberal Democratic Party 1, the Belarusian Agrarian Party 1 and the independents (who are strongly tight to Lukashenko) together hold another 89.
In all, the 2019 elections were reported to be neither fair nor free. Severe human rights violations and restrictions on media are constantly reported in the country. Ballot stuffing and the rejection of opposition candidates was common practice before and during the election.
Belarus is also the last country in Europe to have the death penalty, which is still being carried out. In 2018, for example, four people were reported to have been executed.
The next presidential election in Belarus will be held on the 30th of August 2020.
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- 9,513,000 (World Bank 2015 est.)
- Governmental Type:
- De jure republic; de facto dictatorship
- Ruling Coalition:
- Last Elections:
- 11 September 2016 (parliamentary elections)
- Next Elections:
- 2020 (presidential elections)
- Sister Parties:
- Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Narodnaya Hramada), Belarus Party of Labour (BSDP)
As the state has turned into a strong authoritarian presidential republic, presidential elections are most important in Belarus. In part, this is related to the breakdown of opposition structures after the presidential election of 2010 and the overall internal situation in the country, which is not conducive to independent initiatives. Unfortunately, there is no indication that this situation will soon change. Changes made to the Electoral Code, which have been in force since December 2013, criminalise election boycotting. Key features of the Belarusian electoral process remained unaffected: neither the existing legislation nor its implementation provides the basis for free and fair elections. The authorities remained reluctant to conduct structural reforms considering the uncertain future of financial transfers from Moscow, particularly as Russia’s own economic situation worsened. Corruption remains a serious problem in the country as well. However, existing practices and planned legislative changes confirm the government’s agenda to identify and punish corrupt officials, rather than prevent and eradicate corruption as a sociopolitical phenomenon. Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 2015 has ranked Belarus 107 out of 167 countries and is thereby considered rather corrupt.
Political rights, civil liberties and human rights
Systematic violation of human rights, in particular civil and political rights, continues in Belarus. Peaceful protesters are repeatedly arrested and sentenced to short periods of detention. The authorities continue to use arbitrary detentions, searches, interrogations and misdemeanour charges on bogus grounds to harass and intimidate government critics, especially journalists and opposition activists. The authorities extended sentences of several remaining political prisoners, as in the case of 2010 presidential candidate Mikalai Statkevitch. He was charged with violating prison rules and moved to a harsher penitentiary institution. These prisoners were subjected to undue restrictions, psychological pressure, and other forms of ill-treatment as punishments. They were, however, released in late August 2015 in an apparent attempt to soften Western criticism in the run-up to the presidential elections of 11 October 2015. The use of the death penalty continues. Belarus is the only country in Europe that still has capital punishment. It has executed four people in 2018 and at least one in 2019. The Freedom House has evaluated political rights and civil liberties in Belarus with a 6.5 (1 being most free and 7 the least free).
Freedom of expression is severely restricted. The media remains largely under state control and is used to smear political opponents. Independent media outlets are harassed - including searches of their offices - and bloggers, online activists and journalists are subjected to administrative and criminal prosecution. State-run distribution outlets refuse to disseminate independent periodicals and internet activity remains closely monitored and controlled, especially after the parliament adopted amendments to the media law, enabling the Ministry of Information to shut down online news outlets. The authorities recently started using an article of the Administrative Code on “unlawful creation and dissemination of mass media produce” to prosecute freelance journalists writing for media outlets based outside Belarus, claiming that they require formal accreditation as foreign journalists with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Belarus is ranked 153 out of 180 countries in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index, giving the country a very bad reputation in terms of its press freedom record.
For presidential elections to be valid, a turnout of 50 per cent of registered voters is required. For a candidate to be elected as president, he or she must receive more than half of the votes. If no candidate achieves this, a second election round has to be held within two weeks. The president is elected for a five-year term. Elections in Belarus are primarily regulated by the constitution, the Election Code and the Central Election Committee (CEC).
Parliamentary elections are held every four years through a simple majority vote, with the outcome decided by overall majorities in single-member constituencies for the 110 seats in the House of Representatives, the lower house of the National Assembly. In addition, the upper house of parliament, the Council of the Republic, comprises 64 members, with geographically-based representation. Members of the Council of the Republic are appointed by the President and elected in a secret voting procedure. Belarus also holds elections for local councils of deputies, who are also elected for a period of four years.
Belarus parliamentary election of 2019
On November 17th 2019, the first parliamentary elections since 2016 were held in Belarus. Official results state that all 110 parliamentary seats were won by government functionaries, diplomats and pro-government parties on a claimed 77 per cent voter turnout, which means that the new parliament will have no members of the opposition in it. During the last parliamentary elections in 2016, two opposition members won seats in parliament (Hanna Kanapatskaya, a member of the opposition United Civil Party, and Alena Anisim, an independent with links to the opposition), but neither candidate was allowed to run again in 2019.
The Communist Party of Belarus remained the largest party with 11 seats, an increase of three in comparison to the last parliamentary election in September 2016. The Republican Party of Labour and Justice remained the second largest party with 6 seats, compared to the 3 seats they won in the last election. In third place, losing 1 seat, came the Belarusian Patriotic Party with a total of 2 seats. What is notable is that three new parties entered the election, even though none of them won any seats. These parties were the Belarusian Social Democratic Assembly, Belarusian Socialist Sporting Party and the Republican Party. In total, all independent candidates received 89 seats, which is 5 seats less than in the last election.
Official election results
|Communist Party of Belarus||559,537||11|
|Republican Party of Labour and Justice||355,971||6|
|Liberal Democratic Party||280,683||1|
|Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Assembly)||84,790||0|
|Belarusian Patriotic Party||75,283||2|
|United Civic Party||72,192||0|
|Belarusian Agrarian Party||46,785||1|
|Belarusian Left Party "A Just World"||37,861||0|
|Belarusian Social Democratic Assembly||23,164||0|
|Belarusian Green Party||10,592||0|
|Belarusian Socialist Sporting Party||7,905||0|
International observers and opposition
Election observers and government opponents question the integrity of the elections. The observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) said that “fundamental freedoms were disregarded and the integrity of the election process was not adequately safeguarded”. Moreover, the OSCE observers noted concerns regarding the exclusion of many opposition candidates, limited opportunity for public campaigning and shortcomings during vote counting.
The 110 seats were contested by a total of 558 candidates, of which 150 opposition candidates, who were rejected by election officials. This happened on the grounds that some of the opposition candidates’ signatures were deemed invalid by authorities.
In particular, there was a concern for the opposition candidates in regard to early voting. During this time, ballot boxes are not guarded and several independent observers reported ballot stuffing as well as vote counting without observers being present.
On 11 October 2015, presidential elections were held in Belarus. According to official results, incumbent Alexander Lukashenko won re-election for a fifth term with a landslide victory of 83.49 per cent. The rest of the candidates received less than 5 per cent. The next presidential election will be held on the 30th of August 2020.
|Candidate||% of votes|
|Alexander Lukashenko (Incumbent)||83,49 %|
|Tatsyana Karatkevich (Havary Pravdu)||4,42 %|
|Syarhey Haydukyevich (Liberal Democratic Party)||3,32 %|
|Mikalay Ulakhovich (Belarusian Patriotic Party)||1,67 %|
|Against all candidates||6,5 %|
Official CEC reports presented an overall turnout of 86.7 per cent. According to OSCE observers, "It is clear that Belarus still has a long way to go towards fulfilling its democratic commitments". The OSCE welcomed the release of political prisoners ahead of the election, but "the hope that this gave us for broader electoral progress was largely unfulfilled". The OSCE added that "despite welcome post-electoral engagement on the part of authorities to consider OSCE/ODIHR recommendations, amendments introduced after the 2012 elections did not address some of the key recommendations". The OSCE reported that they were denied access to check voter lists at some locations, and reported instances of ballot-box stuffing and group voting. Especially the counting process was assessed negatively, in 25 per cent of the cases the OSCE was not allowed to observe the count. The OSCE and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) also criticised the fact that the precinct election commissions (PECs) are responsible for voter registration and there is no permanent or centralised voter list, so that there could be multiple registrations, or voters could be taken off of the voter lists. Furthermore, the OSCE and PACE noted the "relative public disinterest" in the election that was "accentuated by the modest turnout at most campaign events". Unlike the last elections, there were no massive protests after the election results, as only some hundreds of people protested and there were no violent altercations with the police.
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