Belarus began early voting Tuesday for seats at the local councils in advance of Sunday's local elections, the European Radio for Belarus reported.
Nikolai Lozovik, secretary of the Central Elections Commission, or CEC, said his agency would place more stringent controls on the early voting procedures after recent changes in electoral laws. Local election commissions must now seal the polling boxes in the presence of two-thirds of the election commission members. Previously only two members of the commission needed to be present.
On Monday the CEC distributed accreditation documents among foreign observers who would take part in the elections to the local Councils of Deputies, according to the Belarusian Telegraph Agency, BelTA.
"There will not be any serious presentation of certificates. After all, diplomats are busy people. We decided not to bother them and just hand over the certificates to the embassies," Nikolai Lozovik said. Some 50 diplomats from 24 states have been accredited to monitor the elections.
Representatives of the diplomatic missions will take part in a short-term observation of the preparation and conduct of the elections for the local Council of Deputies in Belarus from April 20 to 30.
European Parliamentary representatives view the invitation by Belarusian authorities to observe local elections as a positive sign, the Charter '97 website said. The EU deputies would pay special attention to compliance with the recent changes in the electoral law.
The polling stations are also ordered to provide information about the number of citizens who take part in the early voting.
Lukashenko praises new electoral code
Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko underlined in his annual State of the Nation Address on Tuesday the significance of the upcoming elections, the Republic of Belarus' Official website reported.
"The year of 2010 is the year of significant political events: the elections to the local Councils of Deputies and the beginning of the presidential election campaign. The elections will be held in accordance with the new rules. Important amendments have been introduced to the Election Code. They attest to the maturity of the Belarusian public and political system," Lukashenko said.
Lukashenko stressed the importance of the elections to the local Council of Deputies. "These elections are for the people," he said.