EPP: Belarus must ensure free, fair and democratic local elections
The European People’s Party (EPP) Vice President Paulo RANGEL MEP has concluded a two-day visit in Minsk, Belarus, with the aim to meet and support the centre-right opposition: the EPP observer members the United Civic Party (UCP) with its leader Anatol LIABEDKA and the Belarusian Christian Democracy Party (BCD) with its leader Vital RYMASHEUSKI, as well as to assess the application of the Movement for Freedom Party (MFF), chaired by Yuri HUBAREVICH.
During the visit, Vice President Rangel reviewed the human rights situation in Belarus, met with civil society representatives, evaluated the political situation ahead of the local elections in February, and concluded with the following statement:
“Belarus has a big potential to develop closer cooperation with the EU and we have a lot of common interests, especially in the field of security. Following my two-day visit in Belarus, it is clear that Belarus’ participation in the Eastern Partnership process is important, but many concerns remain about the democratic standards, including the political and human rights situation in the country. EPP has been closely monitoring the developments ahead of the local elections in February.
It is very alarming that the opposition is still excluded from real participation in the election commissions; candidates are harassed or denied registration, and prosecutions against the opposition continues. In order for relations to advance, Belarus must ensure the upcoming elections are free, fair and transparent, and abide by the OSCE/ODIHR standards and recommendations. Furthermore, I regret that the situation regarding the registration of political parties and NGOs has not improved, which is especially the case for BCD. I am also greatly concerned about the pressure on the independent media, in particular on the Charter-97 news outlet.
Belarus must remain high on the European agenda. The national consensus and dialogue between the opposition and the government, especially on important issues for the country like the human rights situation and the implementation of necessary reforms is very important for the development of Belarus and needs to be inclusive.
EPP is ready to contribute in every possible way to the development of such dialogue. Meanwhile, we will continue to offer our full support to the centre-right opposition. We stay impressed by their engagement and commitment to fight for a democratic Belarus and for a better life for the citizens, despite continuous persecution and intimidation by the authorities. The political support to our partners remains undeniable and we hope Belarus will take necessary democratic steps to ensure the dialogue with Europe continues.”