Accessibility links

Analysis: Minsk Wages Propaganda War Against Washington


http://gdb.rferl.org/256BC91E-65A2-4E57-AB1F-171C1B88FF18_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/256BC91E-65A2-4E57-AB1F-171C1B88FF18_mw800_mh600.jpg The 2 November presidential election in the United States has provided Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka with ammunition to attack the U.S. government for transgressions that are usually ascribed by Washington to Minsk; namely, for failing to observe democratic election standards. "The presidential election, according to their [U.S.] standards, are inadmissible for us," Lukashenka said on 4 November. "If we had staged an election like they did in the United States, we would have been crushed a long time ago."

The same day, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that the United States did not meet many international commitments regarding elections and failed to make "sufficient efforts" to eliminate the serious shortcomings of the U.S. electoral system that were discovered by a fact-finding mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights in September. "Therefore, we are not surprised by many reports on the disappearance of a large number of ballots sent by mail, the malfunctions of the electronic-voting system, intimidation of voters, the absence of voters on voter registers, the impossibility to freely obtain information from precinct and district commissions about the procedure and places of voting," the statement said. "[These facts] cast doubt on the transparency and democracy of the U.S. elections," the Foreign Ministry concluded.

Minsk's list of deficiencies of the U.S. electoral system essentially reflects the pre-election findings of the OSCE Election Observation Mission for the 2 November elections, which consisted of 92 monitors from 34 countries, including Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Armenia. The mission, which published its preliminary report on the U.S. presidential ballot on the OSCE official website (http://www.osce.org) on 4 November, said in particular that election lists in some of monitored constituencies were inaccurate and gave rise to allegations of voter fraud; voter-registration applications were allegedly not processed and eligible voters were improperly removed from some lists at some constituencies; and there were alleged examples of harassment and intimidation of voters.

The OSCE mission noted, however, that it was not provided with "first-hand evidence" to substantiate the above-mentioned allegations or to demonstrate that such practices were widespread or systematic. Therefore, the general conclusion of the OSCE mission was that the 2 November elections in the United States "mostly met" the commitments agreed to by 55 OSCE members in the Copenhagen Document of 1990, which catalogs international election standards for full-fledged democracies. The mission also noted that the election took place in a "highly competitive environment," while the leading candidates enjoyed "the full benefits of free and vigorous media coverage" throughout the campaign.

Such "niceties" of the electoral process in the United States as "highly competitive environment" and free media, however, were ignored by the Belarusian state-owned media, which, according to Belapan, focused only on negative findings of the OSCE mission in presenting the U.S. presidential elections. This comes as no surprise, considering that the United States is the most vocal and consistent critic of the authoritarian regime of President Lukashenka, while U.S. nongovernmental organizations are among the most generous foreign sponsors of pro-democracy activism in Belarus. Therefore, the Belarusian regime misses no opportunity to strike back at the United States.

Lukashenka first made disparaging remarks about the U.S. electoral system in October, following the adoption of the Belarus Democracy Act by the U.S. Congress. According to Lukashenka, the United States has "the most archaic election system" in the world. "As a result, the current president [George W. Bush] obtained fewer votes than the one who took second place [Al Gore]," Lukashenka added.

"Yet, [in spite of its archaic character], the U.S. electoral system has been working effectively for decades," one Belarusian analyst sarcastically said in reference to Lukashenka's pronouncements, Belapan reported on 9 November. "At any rate, it has proven to be a reliable filter preventing marginal politicians with an inexhaustible stock of cheap populism from taking the top post in the country."

Lukashenka's desire to take propagandistic revenge on Washington is not limited to the domestic public alone. The website of the Belarusian Embassy in Washington (http://www.belarusembassy.org) announced on 4 November that Belarus introduced a draft resolution called "Situation of Democracy and Human Rights in the United States of America" in the Third Committee of the 59th Session of the UN General Assembly. The move seems to be in response to a draft resolution on the situation with the human rights in Belarus that was earlier introduced in the same committee by the United States, the EU, and the Netherlands.
According to Lukashenka, the United States has "the most archaic election system" in the world.


Belarus's resolution proposes that the UN General Assembly urge the U.S. government to become a party to all core international human rights instruments, thus allowing the international community to monitor the situation of human rights in the United States in full; to bring the U.S. electoral process and legislative framework into line with international standards; to end immediately the practice of incommunicado and secret detentions and ensure that conditions of detention conform to international standards for the treatment of prisoners and take into account the needs of members of particularly vulnerable groups; and to bring the actions of its police and security forces into conformity with its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as other relevant international standards.

Henadz Buraukin, independent Belarus's ambassador to the United Nations in the pre-Lukashenka era, told RFE/RL's Belarus Service on 5 November that it is very unlikely that the resolution will be supported by a majority of UN members. "I cannot say that the situation with democracy in America is ideal," Buraukin added. "But, speaking frankly, [if I had been in Lukashenka's place], I would have been ashamed to point to others' ailments. I would have started with curing my own."
XS
SM
MD
LG