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Results of Local and Parliamentary Elections in Belarus: Resilient Political Institutions Through Electoral Sovereignty

International Interdependence and Elections

In 2024, more than fifty countries around the world hold national elections. Regardless of differences in culture, electoral tradition, or political system, each state pays serious attention to the factor of international interdependence. Interdependence between people and markets makes elections transparent. On the one hand, such transparency allows governments to share best electoral practices. On the other hand, interdependence opens space for political technologies that target the electoral choices of citizens.

International interdependence augments the complexity of political technologies applied during elections not only by national electoral subjects but also by foreign actors. According to expert estimates, only 20% of all measures used to achieve military objectives are of the military kind, the rest consists of political technologies. It is no longer a party or an ideology that is promoted, but rather a model of electoral commission or observation methodology. Modern instruments of influence – disruption of real elections and non-recognition of their results, pressure on members of election commissions, training of election organizers in the standards of other countries, creation of alternative elections on the Internet.

There exist objective social processes that make electoral influence a widespread tool: Rise of international instability, politicization of digital sphere, and cosmopolitanization of certain social groups as a result of globalization. Technological development has inevitably opened space for digitalization of elections. The division between collection of personal data and impact on electoral preferences has blurred, which has allowed target influence through contextual advertising, filtering of search queries, and promotion of partisan blogs. Imitation of electoral infrastructure in the digital space has become widespread. The method of organizing alternative electoral infrastructure in the digital space in order to discredit state bodies has appeared to be common.

Notwithstanding political competition, proliferation of electoral political technologies may foster foreign interference in elections and decrease public confidence in the electoral system. Consequently, the public demand for electoral sovereignty has soared in many countries, which cannot but be taken into account by governments and election organizers.

Strengthening electoral sovereignty during local and parliamentary elections in Belarus

In 2024, Belarus, one of the members of the Eurasian Economic Union, a middle-income country, steps into a two-year electoral campaign with a special accent on electoral sovereignty – prevention of interference in elections.

The elections on 25 February 2024 showed high turnout rate (73,09%, 5 055 345 citizens voted) with all political parties having received seats in republican and regional parliaments. Belarusian political parties and civil society organizations nominated delegates to the Center for Public Observation that was established in the Federation of Professional Unions of Belarus to coordinate the republican network of national observers (45 505 national observers were registered). Observers highlighted that these elections saw high activity from youth: From those who vote for the first time and are registered, 77% came to the polling stations.

The Belarusian elections were held in accordance with international electoral standards, as claimed by numerous international observers (294 international observers were accredited). Nurlan Yermekbayev, deputy secretary general of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and leader of the organization’s election observation mission, declared that Belarus’ parliamentary elections were transparent and democratic. Commonwealth of Independent States’ (CIS) Secretary General and head of the CIS observation mission at Belarus’ elections Sergei Lebedev stressed that CIS observers did not detect any violations during Belarus’ elections (CIS mission included 235 international observers from CIS countries).

As a result of the elections, Belarusian citizens elected 12 511 members of regional and local parliaments and 110 members of the House of Representatives, a lower chamber of the parliament, elected from single-member constituencies. Amidst growing requirements for political parties , only four most active parties remained on political landscape, all four political parties received seats in lower chamber: Belaya Rus, Republican Labour Party, Communist Party, Liberal Democratic Party. A great share of no-party affiliated parliamentarians (40 in lower chamber) proves that there is still high demand for local leadership, which is met by the possibility to nominate him/herself not only under the party plate but also from labour staff or individually.

Resilient Political Institutions for Development

The elections in February have shown that the political system of Belarus has become more resilient, which corresponds to citizens’ demands for electoral sovereignty and development. On the one hand, that has become possible due to the prevention of interference. Legal requirements for presidential and parliamentary candidates were raised: Candidates cannot have passports or privileged status granted by other countries. Longer age and residency requirements for presidential candidates have been introduced: A presidential candidate should permanently reside in country for at least 20 years prior to the election. Also, political parties and parliamentarians cannot receive foreign financial aid.

On the other hand, the Belarusian political institutions are developing. In 2021–2022, President Alexander Lukashenko initiated a series of political reforms finally adopted on the constitutional referendum. A new constitution entered into force on 15 March 2022 as well as the national electoral legislation was further adapted to the constitutional norms in 2023. Since 2024, the political system of Belarus includes the highest representative body – All-Belarusian People’s Assembly with influential mandates. The Assembly appoints members of Central Electoral Commission, judges of the Highest Court and the Constitutional Court, proposes a national referendum, initiates impeachment to a President, adopts military and security doctrines, introduces law projects and constitutional amendments, has the right to overrule any decision of any public authority (except court decisions) if it is not in the national security interest. This new constitutional organ is composed of the President, a former President, representatives of the executive, parliamentary, and judicial powers (around 400 delegates), regional parliaments (350 delegates), and civil society organizations (400 delegates). The parliamentary term of office was extended to five years, which synchronized presidential electoral cycles and those at the All-Belarusian People’s Assembly (both five years).

Although civil society organizations have always accompanied electoral processes in Belarus, i.e. with their right to nominate candidates in parliament – since 2023, the degree of involvement of civil society in republican decision-making has increased. The law on civil society was reformed in 2023 to stipulate the procedure of electing delegates to All-Belarusian People’s Assembly from civil society organizations. To be able to nominate delegates, a civil society organization should comply with additional criteria (i.e. not less than 100 000 members) and contribute to resilience of political system. By now, the most active and visible civil society organizations represent alliance of locally active citizens (NGO Belaya Rus), veterans (Belarusian Public Association of Veterans), women (Belarusian Union of Women), youth (Belarusian Republican Youth Union), and trade unions (Federation of Trade Unions of Belarus).

Further, Belarus holds elections to the upper chamber (Council of the Republic, 64 members, elections planned on 4 April 2024), All Belarusian People’s Assembly (new constitutional organ, elections in April), and finally presidential elections in 2025. The elections in February have proved that Belarus is ready for the next phase of electoral campaign, and political institutions have become more resilient in face of proliferation of sophisticated political technologies in the world. The resilience of the Belarusian political system will create space for full enjoyment of the right to development including constant improvement of the well-being of the entire population and of all individuals on the basis of their active, free and meaningful participation in development and in the fair distribution of benefits.