OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Bureau holds discussion with Belarusian Head of Delegation and exiled opposition leader, urges further dialogue

COPENHAGEN, 23 September 2020 – OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President George Tsereteli (Georgia) and Secretary General Roberto Montella opened a web meeting today with Belarusian Head of Delegation Andrei Savinykh, Belarusian opposition presidential candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, and OSCE PA Bureau members by noting the importance of building dialogue for the benefit of all. Following weeks of increased polarization in Belarus characterized by street protests, violence and mass arrests, what is needed is to find common ground and pursue a way forward for the country, the PA leaders stressed.

Sviatlana TsikhanouskayaSviatlana TsikhanouskayaIn her opening remarks, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said that recent events in Belarus have surpassed anything previously experienced. The 9 August election was marred by irregularities both on election day and before with the exclusion of candidates, she said. Subsequent demonstrations were met by state repression, she underlined, which has led to greater resolve for democratic change from the Belarusian people. (Video is available here.)

Tsikhanouskaya said that Alexander Lukashenko has lost support from Belarusian society and to facilitate transition of power, she instituted the Coordination Council on 14 August. The country is in a severe political crisis, she noted, asserting that the only solution is a new election. The OSCE has a role in facilitating dialogue and promoting the conduct of fair elections, she said, expressing support for the move by 17 OSCE participating States to invoke the Moscow Mechanism on 17 September to examine alleged human rights violations. “We have the right to a free and fair election and we will achieve that,” Tsikhanouskaya said. “We are firm in our resolution and we will prevail.”

Andrei Savinykh disputed the claim that the August election was illegitimate, highlighting exit polls showing broad support for the incumbent. He stressed that attempts to take power by unconstitutional means are punishable by law.

Andrei SavinykhAndrei SavinykhSavinykh noted that Belarus is planning some constitutional changes, to be undertaken by 2022, in order to liberalize the political system, transfer power from the Presidency to the Parliament and achieve more balance between the three branches of power, as well as to empower political parties. There is also a need to modernize the law on mass events, he said, pointing out that demonstrations are mostly unsanctioned by local authorities. “We will implement all the changes only through peaceful, normal dialogue with actors inside of Belarus – actors who are interested in achieving results in the interests of the whole country,” he said.

In the discussion, ten members of the Bureau took the floor and raised issues related to the need for dialogue without preconditions. Neither side should exclude the other and both should strive to find a creative mechanism to engage in discussions, it was stressed. Members highlighted support for civil society and the constructive role of the OSCE. All OSCE countries have committed to respecting human rights, it was pointed out, with members noting that reports of abuse in Belarusian jails are disturbing.

President Tsereteli stressed that authorities must find a more constructive way forward. There is a need for commitment on both sides to find common ground, he said, noting that the OSCE PA is well suited to facilitate and support that process. “We need more wisdom and more patience,” Tsereteli said.

When it comes to the prospect of engaging in direct dialogue with the Coordination Council, Savinykh raised concerns over its status as a lawful body, noting that it is outside of the legal structure of the Belarusian political system. He said however that the government is eager to act in the interests of Belarusian society. Savinykh said that human rights are a fundamental obligation, noting that there is room for development of human rights standards in Belarus. In order to develop it, however, he noted the importance of formal legal processes, highlighting the plans to reform the constitution and amend the electoral code.

Tsikhanouskaya noted that with so many opposition leaders in prison, there is a need for amnesty in order for any meaningful dialogue to take place.

OSCE PA Bureau members said that effort should be made to continue discussions between the authorities and the opposition, even if they are not done through official channels. Informal dialogue can be done in small steps that are useful in building trust, and this can be pursued without preconditions, it was stressed.

Secretary General Montella said that the important thing is to find any possible common ground at this point in time and pursue a constructive way forward for Belarus rather than arguing on irreconcilable and polarized narratives of past facts. The OSCE PA will follow up in the coming days with both sides to define a way forward in the interest of all Belarus citizens.

Video of the online meeting is available here.



Nat Parry

Head of Communications and Press

Office: +45 33 37 80 55
Mobile: +45 60 10 81 77
Email: [email protected]

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