BHHRG

About BHHRG

The British Helsinki Human Rights Group monitors human rights and democracy in the 57 OSCE member states from the United States to Central Asia.
* Monitoring the conduct of elections in OSCE member states.
* Examining issues relating to press freedom and freedom of speech
* Reporting on conditions in prisons and psychiatric institutions

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The Election Campaign in Belarus (Continuation)
HITS: 2256 | 10-02-2006, 18:08 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Belarus, Foreign media, Politics

The Group’s six different observers who visited Belarus during the campaign were struck by its quietness. Apart from the large posters and electronic screens urging people to vote (when they weren’t showing adverts for commercial products), there was no evidence of an election campaign.
Occasionally, a handbill or small opposition sticker was sighted but nothing of significance. At opposition rallies handbills, stickers and newspapers were handed out to participants and observers alike.
Alexander Lukashenko chose not to campaign. He did not use the television and radio time allocated to him nor the official newspaper campaigning slots. He offered them to his opponents.
The opposition candidates refused that offer but did get their time on television and radio plus the publication of their programmes in the state-run media. Dr. Kozulin chose to use one of television slots to make allegations about the President’s private life. (It is well known that he is separated from his wife.) He also ripped up a photograph of the President on camera. Whether Belarussian voters appreciated these personal jibes and gestures is open to doubt. Certainly when Mr. Lukashenko was asked at his post-election press conference if he intended to sue Kozulin for libel, he remarked, “Isn’t getting 2% of the vote punishment enough?” and added that he had no powers of prosecution, only the power of pardon.

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The Election Campaign in Belarus (Continuation)
HITS: 2002 | 10-02-2006, 18:08 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Belarus, Foreign media, Politics

The Group’s six different observers who visited Belarus during the campaign were struck by its quietness. Apart from the large posters and electronic screens urging people to vote (when they weren’t showing adverts for commercial products), there was no evidence of an election campaign.
Occasionally, a handbill or small opposition sticker was sighted but nothing of significance. At opposition rallies handbills, stickers and newspapers were handed out to participants and observers alike.
Alexander Lukashenko chose not to campaign. He did not use the television and radio time allocated to him nor the official newspaper campaigning slots. He offered them to his opponents.
The opposition candidates refused that offer but did get their time on television and radio plus the publication of their programmes in the state-run media. Dr. Kozulin chose to use one of television slots to make allegations about the President’s private life. (It is well known that he is separated from his wife.) He also ripped up a photograph of the President on camera. Whether Belarussian voters appreciated these personal jibes and gestures is open to doubt. Certainly when Mr. Lukashenko was asked at his post-election press conference if he intended to sue Kozulin for libel, he remarked, “Isn’t getting 2% of the vote punishment enough?” and added that he had no powers of prosecution, only the power of pardon.

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Belarus: Brokeback Revolution - the Candidates (Continuation)
HITS: 2193 | 10-02-2006, 17:56 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Belarus, Political leaders, Analyzing

Three candidates challenged the incumbent, Alexander Lukashenko, for the presidency. Sergei Gaidukevich (who had stood previously in 2001), former Minsk University rector Alexander Kozulin and Alexander Milinkevich. However, local oppositionists and the Western media gave the impression that Milinkevich was the only opposition candidate always dubbing him the ‘united’ opposition candidate. Therefore, is was perplexing to many people who told BHHRG that they had never heard of Mr. Milinkevich before he put forward his candidacy for the top job.

Milinkevich: The Jack-in-a-box Candidate?

Visiting the headquarters of the Belarussian Popular Front three weeks before the poll this Group’s observers found the activists busy preparing to distribute campaign literature and free newspapers (like Narodnaya Volya) on behalf of Alexander Milinkevich remarkably ill-informed about his past and personality. Repeatedly, they replied to questions about what they knew about Dr. Milinkevich with stock replies like “He is the candidate of the unified opposition” and could not explain what personal qualities or aspects of his career had led the “unified opposition” to choose him.

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Belarus Today: Evolution versus Market-Fundamentalism (Continuation)
HITS: 2545 | 10-02-2006, 17:21 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Belarus, Politics, Analyzing

“The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday – but never jam to-day.”

Lewis Carroll[1]

Shock therapy has produced the greatest peacetime man-made social and economic disaster since Stalin’s collectivisation of agriculture in those ex-Communist countries which adopted the siren schemes proposed by Jeffrey Sachs et al. of the Harvard school. Yet, instead of rewarding Alexander Lukashenko’s instinctive revulsion for inflicting penury on his people to benefit a small class of nouveaux riches emerging from the Communist nomenklatura and their Western partners, the West has poured forth venom on the regime in Belarus which refused to rob its own pensioners and sell its daughters into prostitution or send its graduates to be plumbers in the West.

A lady stall holder shows here wares in the Zhdanovichi market outside Minsk 

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Why did voters in Belarus reject the "Denim Revolution"?
HITS: 2080 | 10-02-2006, 17:11 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Belarus, Elections

In the presidential election held in Belarus on 19th March 2006 the incumbent Alexander Lukashenko won a convincing 82% victory. This result had been widely predicted as had the international community’s hostile response – in the weeks leading up to the election the main observer mission, the OSCE, prejudged both the conduct and result of the poll, deeming it to be neither free nor fair before a vote was cast.

Keeping in with the sponsor: Belarussian opposition activists rally before the poll

At first sight, the proportions of Mr Lukashenko’s victory seem barely less grotesque than the stratospherical electoral triumphs of the West’s favourites. Over the last 15 years, the Western-controlled OSCE observer missions have swallowed without demur a 97% victory for the “rose revolutionary” Mikheil Saakashvili in Georgia in 2004 or a modest 89% from Kyrgyzstan’s “tulip revolutionary” Kurmanbek Bakiev, or 92% for Georgia’s Eduard Shevardnadze back in 1992 when he was still Washington’s favourite reformer, or even Heydar Aliev’s 93% in Azerbaijan in 1993. Yet the same team which never raised an eyebrow about elections where one regime insider was endorsed as the successor of a predecessor whom the West had tired of could not conceive that 82% of Belarussians voted for Alexander Lukashenko.

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PMR - Presidential Elections Report
HITS: 2284 | 17-01-2006, 04:12 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Moldova , Elections

On 10th December, 2006, the unrecognized republic of Pridnestrovie (PMR) held its fourth presidential elections in a calm, orderly and efficient manner. The British Helsinki Human Rights Group sent two representatives to observe the elections for President and Vice-President of the Republic of Pridnestrovie (PMR) on December 10, 2006. The team visited polling stations in Tiraspol, Rybnitsa, Grigoriopol, Kamenka, and the villages of Podoina, Rashkov, and Malajesti. The observers met the Head of the Regional Electoral Commission in Grigoriopol and the representative of the Grigoriopol region on the Central Election Commission.
The election itself proceeded smoothly in every polling station visited by BHHRG. Both the electoral commissions and the electorate were well-informed on the electoral regulations and procedures. The chairman and secretary of the local commissions, as well as their deputies, had attended seminars on the correct conduct of the elections at the regional commission level. In turn, they had instructed the members of their local commissions in preparation of Election Day.

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Foreign Policy: turning up the heat on several fronts
HITS: 5649 | 10-01-2006, 02:06 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Poland , Political science, Political leaders, Analyzing

Perhaps the PiS government’s most significant appointment so far is that of Radek Sikorski as Minister of Defence. Sikorski has been based in the UK and US almost continually since 1982 although he was, briefly, a deputy foreign minister and deputy defence minister between 1992-3 in the first post-Solidarity government. Although he bought a country house in Poland in the last years of Communism[1], Sikorski’s journalistic and think-tank career was primarily British and then Washington-based. However, he returned to contest a seat in the Senate in the 2005 elections which he won with over 76,0000 votes, a significant level of support even though he must be something of an unknown quantity at local level in Poland.
Mr. Sikorski is, however, no stranger to the power elite in Washington, where he was Executive - Director of the New Atlantic Initiative, an arm of the neo-con American Enterprise Institute, (AEI) from 2002 until the eve of the polls in 2005. During that time he has chaired numerous appearances by and conferences with some of the United States closest allies and supporters. Many ex- Communist turncoats who have found it highly profitable to switch their allegiance from Big Brother in the Kremlin to pay obeisance to an even more powerful and wealthy patron in Washington have been hosted at the AEI, where naïve (or cynical)?

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The Presidential Election in Poland
HITS: 2220 | 10-01-2006, 01:52 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Poland , Political leaders

The state election commission registered 16 candidates for the 9th October elections.
In alphabetic order: Marek Borowski, Henryka Bochniarz, Leszek Bubel, Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, Maciej Giertych, Liwiusz Ilasz, Lech Kaczynski, Jaroslaw Kalinowski, Janusz Korwin-Mikke, Andrzej Lepper, Daniel Podrzycki, Jan Pyszko, Zbigniew Religa, Adam Slomka, Donald Tusk and Stanislaw Tyminski.
Daniel Podrzycki died prior to the poll and Zbigniew Religa, Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz and Maciej Giertych withdrew from the race.
Donald Tusk - leader of the Civic Platform (PO) and Lech Kaczynski - mayor of Warsaw and the candidate of Law and Justice (PiS) led in pre-election opinion polls. Other candidates with significant levels of support were heart surgeon, Zbigniew Religa, Self-defence leader, Andrzej Lepper, and Polish Social Democracy (SdPl) leader, Marek Borowski.
According to the constitution, the Polish president has few legislative powers. However, he runs the country’s foreign policy and in this respect Alexander Kwasniewski’s ten year tenure has been regarded as a great success – at least, in the West. In particular, Kwasniewski has been loyalty personified to his post-1989 ally, the United States, by providing the third largest contingent of troops in Iraq and echoing Washington’s disapproval of Putin’s Russia. He also took the leading regional role in bringing the ‘Orange revolutionaries’ to power in Kiev in 2004.

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The Parliamentary Election
HITS: 2389 | 10-01-2006, 00:56 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Poland , Political science, Political leaders

To gain representation in the 460 seat Sejm inidividual parties have to surmount a 5% threshold, which is set at 8% for coalitions. There are 100 members of the Senate. Ten parties were registered in all electoral districts. A parliament runs for 4 years while the president is elected to serve a five year term.
The Democratic Left Alliance - (SLD) the victor of the 2001 elections, albeit in coalition. SLD promised a "return to roots" on the left. The party’s new leader Wojciech Olejniczak wants to cut unemployment. It should also take an active part in talks on the EU Constitution.
Polish Social Democracy (SdPl) -Labour Union-Greens coalition - party that broke away from the SLD in 2004 to distance itself from its post-communist legacy.

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Election Background: Poland Today
HITS: 2085 | 10-01-2006, 00:41 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Elections, Political leaders

With a population of 38 m. Poland is by far the largest of the 8 countries from the ‘New Europe’ which joined the EU in 2004. In the 15 years leading up to accession to the union it suffered a profound assault on its economic well – being as ‘shock therapy’ kicked in and factories were closed putting millions out of work. At the same time, farmers were badly hit as state subsidies dried up. Some of the large state farms in the north of the country managed to convert to modern agribusinesses, often with new Dutch or German owners. But most small farmsteads were pronounced economically unviable, often only providing a subsistence living for their owners. Many of these developments are visible to anyone travelling around Poland even though the media both domestic and foreign foster the impression that the country is ‘booming’ using statistical sleights of hand worthy of Stalinist “growth” figures.
Commentators and neo-liberal Polish politicians, like PO’s Jan Rokita, regularly state that Poland should not follow the ‘old European’ model of France and Germany.[1] Its “fast-growing, low-wage and low-tax system is perceived as a threat by the stodgier, high-unemployment economies of France and Germany” says the International Herald Tribune.

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