EU Council Delegation Sceptical About Belarusian Election Campaign

Text of report by Belarusian privately-owned news agency Belapan

Minsk, 8 July: The delegation of the European Union Council headed by the chief of political department of the Council's General Secretariat, Helga Schmid, visited Minsk on 6-7 July to study the situation before the [parliamentary] election scheduled for 28 September 2008 in Belarus.

As Belapan learnt from the Chairman of the United Civic Party [UCP], Alyaksandr Lyabedzka, before visiting the presidential administration and the Central Election Committee [CEC], the representatives of the EU Council talked to the representatives of the political council of the United Democratic Forces [UDF].

"Schmid was interested in our position as to the beginning of the election campaign, and we were interested in the strategy of the EU in connection with the current situation," Alyaksandr Lyabedzka said.

The politician said that the representatives of the UDF expressed their disagreement with the possible trend of "commercialization" of the relations between Brussels and Minsk, and namely that due to the liberalization of the Belarusian economy Brussels could find it possible to "turn a blind eye to the breach of human rights". The UDF are sure that the situation "when the Belarusian authorities appoint 110 deputies with about three to five opposition members among them" cannot foster the legitimization of the Belarusian regime.

The UDF also named four conditions, under which they could participate in the election to the utmost: inclusion of all the opposition candidates into the election lists; opposition representatives in election commissions at all levels; no repression of activists and the media; good conditions for communicating with the voters.

"Helga Schmid pointed out that our list does not contain all the OSCE conditions of a democratic election, but agreed with absolute importance of these conditions," the UCP leader said.

Anatol Lyabedzka said that the EU Council representatives "have no illusions as to the situation before the election in Belarus, and they feel sceptic about the beginning of the election campaign". "But Europe does not want to deprive the Belarusian authorities of this last chance: the official Minsk still has an opportunity to at least show political will for the election to be fair, let alone changing the laws," the politician said.

Anatol Lyabedzka said that the UDF reserve the right to withdraw their candidates before the end of the election, to carry out a mobilization campaign and to work with the voters.

The politician also said that on that day [7 July] the UCP representatives talked on the same matter with the delegation of the Bundestag Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid.

Originally published by Belapan news agency, Minsk, in Russian 0000 8 Jul 08.