On 14 July, the Belarusian Central Electoral Commission announced that Siarhei Cherachen, Andrei Dzmitryev, Hanna Kanapatskaya, Aliaksandr Lukashenka and Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya were registered to stand in the Belarusian Presidential elections on 9 August. However, Viktar Babaryka was denied registration on the grounds that inconsistencies were allegedly found in his income and property declaration, and Valery Tsapkala was denied registration due to an alleged insufficient number of valid ballot access signatures and failure to disclose the ownership of Priorbank shares in the income and property declaration by his wife. Both candidates had reportedly collected more than 100,000 signatures, as prescribed by the national legislation.
The lack of transparency in the process of verification of the signatures supporting the presidential candidates, as already noted by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) in 2010 and 2015, undermines confidence in the registration process. Moreover, the legal provisions for candidate registration pose disproportionate and unreasonable barriers to candidacy, contrary to OSCE commitments and other international standards.
The European Union regrets that the recommendations by OSCE/ODIHR to include substantial procedural and legal safeguards that enhance inclusiveness, integrity and transparency during all stages of the electoral process, in particular to introduce clear and reasonable criteria and mechanisms for candidate registration and signature verification have not been implemented. The EU expects Belarus to officially invite the OSCE/ODIHR without delay to observe the upcoming presidential elections.
The seemingly arbitrary exclusion of candidates limits the possibility for the Belarusian people to express their will and already undermines the overall integrity and democratic nature of the elections. By denying the registration of Viktar Babaryka and Valery Tsapkala the Belarusian authorities have failed to ensure a meaningful and competitive political contest.
The EU expects Belarus to respect the Belarusian citizens’ rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in the weeks leading up to the elections.
The EU remains committed to strengthening its engagement with the Belarusian people and civil society. We support the independence and sovereignty of Belarus, but human rights and democracy will remain at the forefront of the EU’s considerations when shaping its policy towards the country.