Belarus’s permanent representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Andrei Dapkiunas announced on Monday that Belarus would refrain from inviting observers from the OSCE to monitor the country’s upcoming parliamentary election. The election is currently scheduled for February 25.
Dapkiunas explained that the decision has been taken due to certain geographical and functional imbalances in the OSCE election observation system. This concerns the choice of observation formats and unequal observer distribution in Vienna, coupled with a Western dominance in OSCE missions. He attributed the decision to the deteriorating atmosphere of interstate interaction within the OSCE, leading to a confidence crisis. Additionally, logistical challenges stemming from the closure of border checkpoints by Western neighbors—such as Poland—and air traffic restrictions further complicate the invitation. However, Belarus would reconsider its approach “if the West abandons its illegal sanctions policy & attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of Belarus.”
The OSCE called the decision “deeply regrettable.” The OSCE noted that the decision contradicts the principle of transparency and goes against the interests of the citizens. Belarus remains a member of the OSCE, but the 2024 elections mark the second time the OSCE would be unable to observe the election. The OSCE was previously barred from observing the country’s 2020 elections as well. Despite this, the organization maintains it will observe the election “from all the areas covered by its mandate.”
The head of the Central Election Commission Igor Karpenko during an interview with news agency ONT, said that the election is primarily held for Belarus. However, recognizing the importance of international observation, representatives of the Central Election Commissions of the Commonwealth of the Independent States (CIS) countries and the World Association of Election Bodies will also be invited.
US ambassador to the OSCE Michael Carpenter has decried the lack of fairness in Belarus’ elections since 1994 and said that it is “another sign of the Lukashenka regime’s unprecedented repression.” Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who was forced to flee to Poland, called the decision “nothing more than a desperate attempt by the regime to legitimize itself.” She also urged the international community “to condemn the farce.”
During the 2020 Belarusian elections, current President Aleksandr Lukashenko won his sixth term, which triggered massive protests in the country. The Lukashenko government dealt with the protests by arresting more than 35,000 protesters and imposing harsh sentences upon them.
The country will undergo parliamentary election this year, as around 1,500 political prisoners, including opposition leaders and 2022 Nobel Peace Prize winner Ales Bialiatski, are behind the bars. International organizations, including the UN, have expressed their concerns regarding the situation.