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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06MINSK178 2006-02-17 15:10:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Minsk
Cable title:  

Minsk Election Weekly IX (February 11 - February 17)

Tags:   PGOV PHUM PREL BO 
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SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL BO
SUBJECT: Minsk Election Weekly IX (February 11 - February 17)




1. This is the ninth in a weekly series of election-oriented
reports, providing brief items of interest related to the March
19, 2006 presidential elections. Post will report on the
February 17 registration of candidates process in septel.



--------------------------


Campaign Preparations


--------------------------





2. Minsk Designates Places For Campaigning

The Minsk city government on February 11 adopted a list of 30
places, primarily parks away from Minsk's center, where
presidential contenders will be allowed to hold meetings with
voters and a list of 39 places where candidates can post their
campaign materials. The Minsk City Executive Committee's press
office announced that it already tasked police to prevent
candidates from holding rallies and posting campaign materials
in non-designated places.



3. Candidates Turn in Registration Papers

Secretary of the Central Election Committee (CEC) Nikolai

SIPDIS
Lozovik on February 11 announced that all four presidential
contenders - President Aleksandr Lukashenko, 10+ coalition
leader Aleksandr Milinkevich, former Belarusian State
University rector Aleksandr Kozulin, and leader of the pro-
Lukashenko Liberal Democratic Party Sergey Gaidukevich -
submitted to the CEC the necessary documents for their
registration as candidates. The documents include income and
property statements of the contenders and their family members,
written consent to run in the election, and a report on their
background. According to Lozovik, the verification of the
filed income and property statements will be the most serious
test for the contenders.



4. More Election Coverage

The Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ) reported on
February 15 that the state media devoted more airtime to the
presidential election in early February than it did in January.
State TV and radio programs covered the opposition more,
although in a negative light without naming individuals, and
the CEC received six times as much coverage from the ONT TV
network between January 28 and February 10 than it did between
January 16 and January 27. Opposition candidates Milinkevich
and Kozulin received 10 seconds of negative coverage on ONT's
news show "Nashi Novosti," Sergey Gaidukevich received 15
seconds of neutral coverage and Lukashenko received 30 minutes
of praise. Belarus' National TV Channel's (BT) program
Panorama devoted 0.2 percent of its election coverage to
Milinkevich, 0.02 percent to Kozulin and Gaidukevich, and 43
percent to Lukashenko. Milinkevich only received negative
coverage while Lukashenko was praised 88 times.

Contenders Prepare


--------------------------





5. Another Presidential Present Before the Elections

On February 14, Lukashenko issued an edict raising monthly
maternity and student allowances. Allowances for employed and
unemployed mothers of children under the age of three increased
from USD 70 to USD 73 and student allowances increased seven
percent. Student allowances increased seven percent.



6. Milinkevich Election Program Accepted

On February 15, the political council of the United Pro-
Democratic Forces adopted Milinkevich's election program, which
focuses on fundamental values of freedom, truth, and justice
and is expected to show Belarusians the positive aspects of
democratic change. Milinkevich's program has seven priorities;
family and health, labor and decent pay, just laws and a
responsible government, economic freedom, science and progress,
national revival, and an open country and world. The program
would reestablish the separation of powers, abolish the
contract system, increase wages, and support private business.
Milinkevich believes his program would create half a million
jobs and increase the average wage to EUR 550.



7. Milinkevich Meets Pro-Democratic Group in Moscow

Milinkevich met with Russia's Union of Right Forces (SPS) in
Moscow on February 16. The SPS promised to support Belarus'
independent media and democratic activists. Leader of the SPS
Nikita Belykh told Milinkevich that Russian politicians and
public figures appealed to Belarus' CEC to allow
representatives of Russia's pro-democratic parties to monitor
the March presidential elections. After meeting with the SPS,
Milinkevich met with public figures and human rights activists
and spoke with over 100 journalists at a news conference.



--------------------------


Harassment


--------------------------





8. Lukashenko Denies Campaigning, But Smears Opposition

Lukashenko told reporters during a February 10 trip to the
Osipovichi district that he did not need to rig elections to
secure an election victory because he already had overwhelming
support. According to the President, his support ratings are
over 60 percent, while the opposition's ratings are no more
than seven percent. Lukashenko commented that under his rule,
Belarus has developed "normally" and had not been "sold out" to
the West and oligarchs. He also advised his opponents to visit
Belarus' rural areas more often instead of traveling abroad to
look for money.



9. Police Seize Campaign Materials

On February 11, Brest Police raided a basement belonging to
Milinkevich's regional campaign team manager Vladimir
Radivonchik and seized posters and calendars featuring images
of Milinkevich. Fifteen police searched the basement after
allegedly receiving an anonymous telephone tip that Radivonchik
was storing ammunition. Radivonchik was taken to the local
police station and listened to a recording of the "anonymous"
phone call. After refusing to speak about the seized campaign
material, Radivonchik was released. The police found no
ammunition.



10. Campaign Manager Questioned

The Prosecutor General's Office on February 13 summoned
Milinkevich's campaign manager Sergey Kalyakin to answer
questions about his accusations that officials were violating
electoral law. Kalyakin at a recent press conference at
Belarusian Popular Front's headquarters accused city executive
authorities, managers of state enterprises, and police officers
of pressuring people to sign for Lukashenko during the
signature campaign. Kalyakin refused to disclose his sources of
information, fearing that they would face further harassment.



11. Activists Fined For Early Campaigning

A district judge in Mosty on February 13 fined Yevgeny
Skrabutan USD 135 for illegal electioneering and distribution
of materials without an imprint. Skarabutan called the ruling
illegal and "unfounded" and plans to appeal. Police briefly
detained Skarabutan on January 12 and confiscated 5,000 copies
of a wallet-size calendar featuring Milinkevich. On February
16, a Vitebsk district judge fined Milinkevich's regional
campaign manager Khristofor Zhelyapov USD 27 for illegally
distributing campaign materials. On December 30, police
officer found wallet-sized calendars and Milinkevich posters in
the trunk of Zhelyapov's car during a road check.



--------------------------


Observation


--------------------------





12. ODIHR Observers Accredited

The CEC on February 14 accredited 50 Office for Democratic
Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) long-term observers to
monitor the presidential elections. The long-term observers
are to work in teams of two in 20 populated areas. ODIHR is
expecting an additional 400 short-term observers to arrive in
Belarus shortly before the March 19 elections. On March 20,
ODIHR will issue a statement of preliminary findings and
conclusions, but the final report will not be ready for eight
weeks afterward. Observer accreditation was also given to 48
observers representing the Parliamentary Assembly of the
Belarusian-Russian Union State, led by vice speaker of Russia's
Duma Sergey Baburin. The CEC has accredited 165 international
observers, including 65 members of the CIS observation mission
and two delegates from Kazakhstan.



13. CEC Rejects Transparent Ballot Box

The CEC on February 16 rejected a proposal from Kozulin to use
transparent ballot boxes on Election Day, claiming that the
traditional ballot boxes used in Belarus were "fully secure"
and that transparent ballot boxes were not used in Western
European countries. A dissatisfied Kozulin claimed that using
transparent ballot boxes was a widespread practice that helped
record the true number of voters who had cast ballots.

Quote of the Week


--------------------------





14. In a February 16 Komsomolskaya Pravda v Belorussii
interview, presidential contender and leader of the Liberal
Democratic Party Sergey Gaidukevich explained his political
attitude towards Lukashenko:

"I am a special type of an opposition politician. After January
2004, I made a fundamental decision to stop criticizing
Lukashenko, but I did not want to. Is Lukashenko to blame for
our inability to do anything?"

KROL