Wednesday

7th Dec 2022

EU watching as Belarus shuts out opposition

None of the 78 opposition candidates won seats in Belarus parliamentary elections on Sunday, amid allegations of vote-rigging. The OSCE and the EU will react later on Monday (29 September), with the EU looking for reasons to ease Belarus sanctions.

The head of the Central Electoral Commission, Lidziya Yarmoshyna, unveiled the preliminary result at 2 am local time on Monday morning, saying prominent opposition candidates such as Syarhey Kalyakin, Ales Mikhalevich, Anatoly Lebedko and Volha Kazulin received only between 8.6 percent and 15.6 percent of the votes in their electoral districts.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"All elections in Belarus were held democratically, but the only thing is that election processes are viewed in a different way," Ms Yarmoshyna - who is on the EU's visa ban list along with 40 other Belarus officials - said, BelaPAN reports.

The result reflects the fact many older, working class and rural Belarusians support President Alexander Lukashenko and do not believe that the parliament has any real political power. It also undermines earlier reports the EU and Belarus had cut a deal to let 22 opposition figures into the lower house.

In one way the election was more free than the previous one in 2004, when no opposition candidates were allowed to run.

The police also stood back as around 1,000 pro-democracy activists marched around central Minsk for three hours on Sunday night, carrying EU flags and banners that read "Lukashenko is Europe's last dictator" and "No to electoral farce!"

The OSCE verdict on the poll - due at 3 pm local time on Monday - may focus on details of the vote count. In past elections, monitors had to sit five metres away from the counting table. The OSCE was on Sunday night still waiting for detailed feedback from its 477 personnel scattered around the country.

Opposition claims that the vote was fixed centre around the fact that just 13 opposition personnel were allowed into the 6,500 or so regional electoral commissions that administer the count. Critics also point out that 25 percent of the electorate voted in early ballots without any oversight.

Anatoly Lebedko of the opposition United Civic Party said he has photographs of unsealed ballot boxes containing forged votes. "There was no election in Belarus," he told AP. "It was an electoral farce for the West. We call on the EU and US not to recognise the results of the election."

"This spits in the face of the European community," leading dissident Alexander Kazulin said, Reuters reports. "The OSCE is in a pretty sensitive position. They need to produce some positive assessment, but they will find it difficult to do after what has happened."

The French EU presidency is expected to make a statement on the elections later on Monday, setting the political tone ahead of a discussion by senior EU diplomats on Tuesday about suspending the visa ban or taking some names off the list.

The EU is keen to pull Belarus closer to act as a buffer against what it sees as a newly aggressive Russia. But it fears Lukashenko may be using the option of rapprochement with the West as a bargaining chip in upcoming gas price talks with Moscow.

A European Commission official told EUobserver ahead of the elections that if a sanctions move is deemed strategically useful, the EU will be able to find grounds for it in the OSCE judgment, which always lists positive and negative elements and is not a simple pass or fail.

"No matter what happens in the elections, the OSCE verdict will say something positive about democratic reforms," the contact said.

Portugal was poised to scrap 'Golden Visas' - why didn't it?

Over the last 10 years, Portugal has given 1,470 golden visas to people originating from countries whose tax-transparency practices the EU finds problematic. But unlike common practice in other EU states with similar programmes, Portugal has not implemented "due diligence".

Socialists opposed parliament taking Qatar rights stand

The socialists in the European Parliament are leading compromise talks on human rights in Qatar despite voting against putting the issue to a plenary vote. The move comes after the Left demanded that the European Parliament take a stand.

No top EU officials going to Qatar World Cup

None of the four top EU officials are going to the Qatar World Cup amid a stink on human rights, but some are more brave than others in criticising the gas-rich emirate.

Column

Autocrats make us all less secure

How should democratic states co-operate with authoritarian governments in the future? My organisation, Democracy Reporting International, has studied the security strategies of 13 democratic governments to understand how they see this relationship.

Opinion

Serbia now has no choice but to join EU sanctions on Russia

Vladimir Putin himself is somewhat suspicious of Serbia's leader, as are most who deal with the opaque Aleksandar Vucic. The Russian president has preferred to keep his Serbian counterpart compliant, via a tight rein of annually-reviewed gas pricing.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  4. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  5. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  6. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe

Latest News

  1. EU delays Hungary funds decision, as Budapest vetoes Ukraine aid
  2. Borrell gets pension from MEP fund set for taxpayer bailout
  3. Autocrats make us all less secure
  4. Big Agri's lies: green EU farming not to blame for food insecurity
  5. German top court declares €800bn EU recovery fund 'legal'
  6. EU countries struggle to crack Hungary's vetos
  7. Frontex expanding migrant route-busting mission in Balkans
  8. EU ministers in fresh battle on joint debt, after Biden subsidies

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  2. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  3. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us