Belarussian Presidential Elections set for December 19, 2010

Belarus Coat of Arms

Belarus Coat of Arms

The Belarussian parliament back in September had set the date for the presidential elections. As RIA Novosti communicated at the time:

The Parliament of Belarus on Tuesday set the presidential election in the country for December 19, 2010, reports RIA Novosti.

This decision was taken unanimously by parliamentarians.

Incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko had made it clear earlier that he would participate in the election, but this was not officially announced.

Now to participate in this election, potential candidates need to come up with at least 100’000 valid signatures supporting their candidature. Apparently, eleven candidates have achieved this, again as per RIA Novosti:

Eleven potential candiates handed over the required signatures to participate in the presidential elections of Belarus, Nikolai Lozovik, the secretary of the CEC (Central Election Commission) told RIA Novosti on Saturday. A potential candidate must collect at least 100,000 signatures in his support.
“In the first place is the current president, Alexander Lukashenko, who has handed over more than 1.1 million signatures”, said Lozovik.
He said that the second highest number of signatures to be handed over was from opposition author and writer Vladimir Neklayev, who arrived at more than 160 thousand signatures, followed by former Deputy Foreigne Minister of Belarus, Andrei Sannikov and the vice-president of the United Civil Party and well-known liberal economist Yaroslav Romanchuk with more than 150 thousand and 120 thousand signatures, respectively.
“All other candidates have handed over to the committee from 105 to 120 thousand signatures”, informed the secretary of the Belarus CEC.
The last presidential elections in Belarus were held on March 19, 2006 with Alexander Lukashenko getting 82.6% of the vote (source: Wikipedia). According to the OSCE the elections were “severely flawed due to arbitrary use of state power and restriction on basic rights”, as they wrote in a press release:

MINSK, 20 March, 2006 – The Belarusian presidential election on 19 March failed to meet OSCE commitments for democratic elections, despite the fact that voters were offered the potential for a genuine choice between four candidates.

Arbitrary use of state power and widespread detentions showed a disregard for the basic rights of freedom of assembly, association and expression, and raise doubts regarding the authorities’ willingness to tolerate political competition, concludes the OSCE Election Observation Mission in a statement issued today.

Over 500 international observers from 38 countries observed the voting and counting on behalf of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, PA.

“The Belarusian people deserve better. The courageous efforts of the opposition candidates to offer voters a genuine choice for president were obstructed by actions by state authorities,” said OSCE PA president Alcee Hastings, appointed by the OSCE Chairman-in-Office as the Special Co-ordinator for the short-term observers.

Well, let’s see how it goes this time. The Belarussian president, by the way has a 5 year term.