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2005-10-07 10:43:00
Embassy Minsk
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DE RUEHSK #1227/01 2801043
R 071043Z OCT 05
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MINSK 001227 



E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/06/15

Ref: Minsk 1164

MINSK 00001227 001.2 OF 003

Classified by Ambassador George Krol for Reasons 1.4 (B,D)

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MINSK 001227



E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/06/15

Ref: Minsk 1164

MINSK 00001227 001.2 OF 003

Classified by Ambassador George Krol for Reasons 1.4 (B,D)

1. (C) Summary: In an October 5 meeting, Head of the
Central Election Committee (CEC) Ludmilla Yermoshina and
her deputy explained to Pol Chief the processes of choosing
an election date and registering presidential candidates.
The election will be no later than July 20 and campaigning
will begin no later than April 20. Nominated individuals
must collect 100,000 signatures before the CEC officially
registers them as candidates. The GOB finances each
candidate's presidential campaign and provides free
television and radio time as well as printed leaflets. The
price tag of next year's election doubled to 17 million and
is attributed to higher wages and the falling US dollar. A
candidate's party affiliation is not relevant to the CEC
registration process, but candidates cannot collectively
garner support from citizens without their permission. The
GOB plans to invite observers, but Yermoshina did not
specify whether OSCE observers would be invited. According
to Yermoshina, Belarusian elections are democratic and
transparent whereas U.S. elections are not. End Summary.

2. (U) Pol Chief and poloff met with head of the CEC
Ludmilla Yermoshina and her deputy head Nikolai Lozovik on
October 5. Yermoshina briefed Pol Chief on her background
as a lawyer and local government administrator in the
Bobruisk/Mogilev region before assuming her job at the CEC
nine years ago. Yermoshina joked that in being named head
of the CEC, she assumed such a large role so quickly that
it was like "a sergeant being promoted to colonel."
Lozovik mentioned his time in the opposition and was one of
the MPs who signed the motion to impeach Lukashenko in

1996. He has worked at the CEC for five years.

Need An Election Date

3. (C) Yermoshina explained the time frame for elections
and campaigning. According to Belarusian law, the
presidential election is to take place no later than two
months before the end of the incumbent's presidency.
Lukashenko's term ends
on September 20, so the elections
must take place before July 20. Candidates cannot begin
campaigning until three months before the election, meaning
no later than April 20. The Parliament will choose a date
for elections at the beginning of their spring session.

The Signature Campaign

4. (C) The most important requisite for nominating a
presidential candidate is the ability to collect the
necessary 100,000 signatures. The potential candidate must
first register at the CEC his/her name and all individuals
in his/her nomination group that will help gather the
signatures. These groups can be political parties, social
organizations (i.e. trade unions and youth groups),
collective organizations (collectivized companies), or ad-
hoc groups of supporter, all of which cannot have fewer
than 100 people. According to Yermoshina, this
registration process is very easy. The registered group
members are given CEC-issued accreditation cards for
identification purposes. Signatures gathered by an
unaccredited person are considered void.

5. (C) Once registered with the CEC, the group members are
given one month to collect the needed signatures. Lozovik
admitted the difficulty in gathering 100,000 signatures,
especially for groups with only 100 members. He noted that
in 2001, 23 groups nominated candidates but only 4 were
successful in collecting the signatures. Lozovik opined
that the greatest difficulty in gathering signatures is
that citizens do not like signing petitions of any kind.

6. (C) All signatures collected must be turned into the
respective regional CEC. Each regional CEC tallies the
number of signatures for each candidate and reports to the
oblast CEC and then to the national CEC. Yermoshina
admitted that the process is very large, but the CEC's
structure allows Yermoshina to know more accurate results
than the candidates themselves. The CEC only has ten days
to check the signatures' validity, and therefore, can only
check 20 percent of each candidate's list. Yermoshina
claimed it is the candidates' responsibility to ensure the
signatures are legitimate, and therefore, the local CEC
will speak directly with people who signed the nomination

MINSK 00001227 002.2 OF 003

petition to confirm their legitimacy.

Campaign Finance and Airtime

7. (C) Once the candidate collects the needed signatures
and is successfully registered with the CEC as a
presidential candidate, the CEC provides the candidates
with approximately USD 27,000 in campaign assistance. All
candidates receive free airtime on the radio and television
but as Yermoshina noted, would not be allowed to speak as
long as they like. Candidates are given two half-hour time
slots for both radio and TV and the time slots are randomly
chosen. The CEC will also publish leaflets for each
candidate and allow them to print campaign materials ???E
in all government papers. In addition to the financial and
material support, candidates will be allowed to choose a
venue for campaigning, paid for by the government.
However, as Lozovik pointed out, the CEC cannot force
private establishments to host a candidate and his
supporters if he/she is opposed. Therefore, options on
venues are reduced down to city buildings and the numerous
"Houses of Culture."

8. (C) Yermoshina estimated the price of next year's
election to be USD 17 million, blaming the two-fold
increase on the higher wages and the decreasing value of
the U.S. dollar. [Note: Yermoshina chuckled when mentioning
the latter.] Lozovik explained that most of the money goes
to paying the local CEC a minimum of members USD 200 during
the election month.

Does Party Affiliation Matter?

9. (C) According to Yermoshina, a candidate's party
affiliation does not concern the CEC. Answering Pol
Chief's question, Lozovik claimed that the Ministry of
Justice's new decree that all congresses, coalitions, and
associations must be registered with the GOB would not
affect the electoral process (reftel). Pol Chief asked
whether the CEC could eliminate the single candidate
Aleksandr Milinkevich as a candidate if the MOJ declared
the 10+ coalition an illegal entity. Yermoshina claimed
that the 10+ and their single candidate congress did not
concern the CEC. All that matters is that candidates
collect the necessary signatures and register with the CEC.

Registered Support

10. (C) Every candidate is allowed to nominate 30
supporters who are legally allowed to campaign and speak on
the candidate's behalf in radio/TV interviews or at rallies
and conferences. Candidates cannot enroll or volunteer
people into their campaign without their permission.
Lozovik gave an example of how one candidate in 2001
nominated an entire library staff as supporters without
notifying or asking permission from each staffer. A CEC-
led investigation revealed that several members of the
library staff did not know they were part of any campaign
nor were asked to join. Yermoshina told Pol Chief that
upon request the CEC would investigate these illegal
campaign recruitments.

The Observer Question

11. (C) Yermoshina informed Pol Chief that international
observers are welcome, but the President, Parliament, or
MFA would decide who is invited. The CEC normally invites
observers from countries that have invited GOB observers to
monitor their own elections. Yermoshina did not answer
whether the OSCE would be invited to observe and said that
issue would be decided by he MFA. Yermoshina claimed that
unlike the U.S., Belarus has always welcomed international
observers and allows them to observe all election
processes, from the opening of the poll booths to the
counting of the ballots. She admitted that the CEC
regulates where observers are allowed to stand and conceded
that there have been complaints that observers were unable
to view the ballot counting. According to Yermoshina,
observers are given a seat from which all processes are
easily viewable.


MINSK 00001227 003.2 OF 003

12. (C) As Post expected, Yermoshina painted a rosy picture
of free and fair elections in Belarus and a CEC that works
fairly with all candidates. Despite Yermoshina's testimony
to the transparency and fairness of the CEC, it is
difficult to believe much of what was said. Though
Yermoshina claimed a party's registration status with the
government is irrelevant to the CEC, the MOJ decree was
clearly established to serve as a potential obstacle to
pro-democratic presidential hopefuls. Gathering 100,000
signatures is difficult, especially when the CEC
arbitrarily declares many of them void or falsified,
moreover, Post cannot remember the last time an opposition
candidate was allowed to speak on public television, let
alone radio, unless it was accompanied by government

13. (C) Yermoshina, with a fake smile and laugh, did not
hesitate to criticize the U.S. and EU for not inviting GOB
observers to our "undemocratic" elections. She politely
told poloffs that the CEC would be more than willing to
hold seminars in the U.S. on how to hold democratic
elections, if only they were invited. Yermoshina mentioned
how insulted she was when Europe named her the "face of
election falsification" and banned her from all EU
territory. [Note: She did not directly mention her U.S.
travel ban. Recent interviews with Yermoshina in both the
independent and government press, together with our
meeting, indicate that Yermoshina is deeply upset about
these travel restrictions.]

14. (C) In an attempt to portray themselves as honest
government officials and not Lukashenko pawns, Yermoshina
often referred to Lozovik's time as an opposition member
who tried to impeach Lukashenko. Lozovik claimed that
could not be considered a dictator because he had appointed
Lozovik, the man who tried to impeach him, as the CEC
deputy. Despite what seemed to be underlying bitterness
toward the US and EU, the officials told Pol Chief they
would be willing to meet with Embassy officials in the
future and would answer any questions.