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Lukashenka’s key rivals removed from elections

(July 14, 2020)


Viktar Babaryka and Valery Tsapkala. Photo: RFE/RL

The Central Election Commission has declined to register Viktar Babaryka and Valery Tsapkala, making two of Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s key rivals ineligible to run for President.

Babaryka was denied registration over alleged flaws in his income and property declaration and the participation of a foreign organization in the presidential nominee’s campaign.

Many members of Babaryka’s nomination group are employees of Belgazprombank, which is 99.6% owned by Russian commercial structures. This is not a violation, but the activists allegedly used the bank’s resources, including corporate communications and cars. The CEC said this was a violation of the ban on direct or indirect participation of foreign finance in the election campaign.

During a CEC meeting held today, the chairperson, Lidziya Yarmoshyna, also quoted a letter from the State Control Committee (the authority that ordered Babaryka’s arrest and an investigation into alleged tax fraud and money laundering) which argued that the nominee led a criminal group engaged in “money laundering”.

Maksim Znak, lawyer of Babaryka’s campaign headquarters, stresses that the allegations violate the nominee’s presumption of innocence, since his guilt has not yet been proven in court.

“We are definitely going to court. What we heard today is very strange. We did not see any documents,” the lawyer said.

Earlier, local election commissions invalidated some 200,000 signatures collected by Babaryka’s nomination group.

Valery Tsapkala was disqualified after he reportedly failed to submit the necessary 100,000 valid signatures to support his nomination. The nominee’s campaign headquarters said they had collected over 160,000 signatures and all of them were authentic.

The election authorities authorized the registration of five presidential candidates: Hanna Kanapatskaya, Andrei Dzmitryeu, Siarhei Cherachen, and Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, as well as the incumbent Aliaksandr Lukashenka.

Speaking about Tsikhanouskaya, CEC chair Yarmoshyna said that the nominee had failed to declare a house owned by her husband Siarhei Tsikhanouski, who is currently held in pre-trial detention. Despite the “crucial flaw”, the CEC ruled to register the candidate.

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