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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08VILNIUS734 2008-09-05 14:20:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Vilnius
Cable title:  

BELARUS ELECTION CONDITIONS: MUCH ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

Tags:   PGOV PHUM PINR BO 
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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2754
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
					  UNCLAS VILNIUS 000734 

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS
AMEMBASSY MINSK SENDS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PINR BO
SUBJECT: BELARUS ELECTION CONDITIONS: MUCH ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

REF: VILNIUS 719



1. (SBU) Although interest in Belarusian parliamentary elections
later this month -- early voting begins September 23 -- is getting
more intense every day, the GOB has still not taken any clear steps
that would significantly improve conditions in comparison to
previous elections. The regime failed to fix the flawed staffing of
precinct election commissions, and in response to appeals has now
added only eight more registered parliamentary candidates out of a
possible 52 denied registration last week.



2. (SBU) OSCE/ODIHR Observation Mission Head Ambassador
Geert-Hinrich Ahrens and his core staff briefed OSCE diplomats in
Minsk September 5. Ahrens noted that the GOB has been "very
helpful" in providing logistical assistance, but added that
cooperation is still needed on specific aspects of the elections.
He expressed his "overall impression" that the regime, by blocking
about 20 percent of prospective parliamentary candidates, "missed an
opportunity to make the [electoral] process more inclusive." Ahrens
is still learning about the substance of the Belarusian opposition,
but voiced justified frustration -- already shared with the media --
that the discussion of boycotting the elections was occupying more
of political parties' time than campaigning. (Comment: We agree,
and have told the local press as much ourselves. End comment.)



3. (SBU) Ahrens' staff provided further details. The OSCE/ODIHR
mission is closely monitoring the media situation, paying especially
close attention to candidates' access to radio, TV, and state
newspapers. The mission is reviewing the complaint of some
opposition candidates that local papers have refused to print their
mandatory 4,000-word manifestos. The expert tracking the candidate
registration process noted the pedantry of the process: one
parliamentary hopeful was denied registration for not having
declared ownership of a Zaporozhets (loosely stated, the Soviet
equivalent of a Ford Pinto) he had actually sold 12 years ago.



4. (SBU) The greatest attention will be focused on the question of
the transparency of voting, ballot box security, and the vote count.
In the past, all have been critical areas where access has been
limited or non-existent. As noted reftel, both the U.S. and EU have
been stressing that clear progress is needed in this area, a
sentiment Ahrens enthusiastically shares. (Note: Even if conditions
are improved, however, the OSCE/ODIHR mission will not be able to
observe much of the early voting September 23-27, as most of their
short-term observers will not arrive in Belarus until the end of
that period. End note.)

Comment


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





5. (SBU) If the GOB makes necessary improvements, it will find the
OSCE/ODIHR mission and the international community very willing to
welcome such steps. It is however troubling that -- as Ahrens has
said -- some key opportunities have already been lost; for his part,
he will stress that message next week to Central Election Commission
chair Lidiya Yermoshina and is seeking a meeting with Presidential
Administration head Vladimir Makey as well. If the regime now fails
to deliver full transparency throughout the actual voting process,
we can expect reports to indicate that there has been no improvement
in conditions since the previously monitored elections in 2004 or


2006.

MOORE
CLOUD