“The September 23 parliamentary elections in Belarus fell short of international standards and their conduct cannot be considered free or fair.”
On September 23rd, the people of Belarus once again went to the polls, this time to elect the lower chamber of the parliament. And once again, the process was deeply flawed, the results a foregone conclusion.
Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, noted that the election was not competitive from the start, inasmuch as a “free election depends on people being free to speak, organize and run for office.”
That was decidedly not the case in Belarus this election. According to the OSCE, many prominent politicians who might have had a chance of influencing the election either "remained in prison or were not eligible to register because of their criminal record," while a number of opposition activists were arrested prior to the election.The OSCE also noted that the state-run media barred most opposition candidates from appearing on television, while the state-owned press refused to publish their election programs.
Indeed, a week before the election, the two strongest opposition parties pulled their candidates off the ballot and urged all potential voters to boycott the election altogether.
Belarus, a country of nine and a half million people, has the most repressive regime in Europe. Under the rule of Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who first assumed the Presidency in 1994, Belarus has consistently been out of step with its neighbors who rapidly instituted democratic and free-market reforms. In fact, according to Western monitoring agencies, Belarus has not held a free and fair election since 1995.
Since 2004, no opposition members have been elected into the Belarusian parliament.
Citing the OSCE statement, the United States noted that “the September 23 parliamentary elections in Belarus fell short of international standards and their conduct cannot be considered free or fair.” The United States urged the authorities to take steps to meet Belarus’s international commitments to hold genuinely democratic elections and to foster respect for human rights.