OSCE official: Belarus’ elections did not meet international standards
Belarus’ parliamentary elections did not meet international standards, Kent Harstedt, vice president of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly who was special coordinator of the short-term OSCE observer mission for the September 2016 House of Representatives elections, said Thursday in Washington.
"It`s very clear. They didn`t live up to international standards, it wasn`t free and fair elections the way we define it," Mr. Harstedt said, speaking at the Wilson Center think tank in the U.S. capital.
However, observers noted more cooperation on the part of Belarusian authorities than in previous years, he added.
Mr. Harstedt noted that the Belarusian authorities had ignored a number of recommendations from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, and that 24 percent of international observers could not see the vote counting process.
Candidates did not have equal access to the media and some political parties had been denied state registration for many years, Mr. Harstedt said.
According to him, judging by his talks with officials, the Belarusian authorities understood what the OSCE wanted from them, but they explained that the period between the previous elections and the new ones was not enough to amend electoral regulations. The OSCE would have understood if the process had not yet been completed, but it was never started, he said.
Unfortunately, the Belarusian authorities have not yet gone further than promises, Mr. Harstedt said. But "we have felt that they want to be engaged in a way we haven`t seen before," he added.
Mr. Harstedt urged the government to continue liberalization reforms. "If Belarus is not seizing this opportunity that is there for them at this time, I think they will be deceiving themselves," he said. "Security, [the] economy, human rights, civil society and democracy, freedom of speech – all of them are interlinked with each other. So I think that Belarus [has] an opportunity at a time where developments in so many places are going backwards. I think they have an opportunity to move forward."
Speaking at the same meeting, Pavel Shydlowski, Belarus’ charge d`affaires to the U.S., said that his country would continue efforts to improve ties with the United States and would follow the OSCE’s recommendations on elections.
"We are continuing the process of normalization of relations with the U.S. and with Europe," he said. "Our authorities have made every effort to ensure a democratic and transparent election process."