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  • BAJ Monitors Share Their View of the Electoral Campaign

    Chairperson of BAJ Andrei Bastunets and head of the monitoring group of BAJ at the elections Ales Antsipenka are telling their views of what is going on in the media at the electoral campaign.

    When we are told that “the elections went along in a quiet atmosphere”…

    Ales Antsipen­ka:

    Elec­tions, how we mean it, have lost its val­ue in the state. All pre­vi­ous years the dra­mat­ic start was restrained arti­fi­cial­ly. We deal with a guid­ed process, and Mrs Yarmoshy­na is rem­i­nis­cent of a direc­tor of the action. The elec­tions come to be a kind of “pro­ce­dure”, there are more talks about the tech­ni­cal side of the event, and here CEC (the Cen­tral Elec­toral Com­mit­tee) has had its impact.

    Mean­while, the sense of elec­tions are not dec­o­ra­tions, not the film edi­tor, but the actors who go out to the stage and play the dra­ma. Elec­tions are a com­pe­ti­tion, a con­flict of views, a vio­la­tion of some rules… When we are told that “the elec­tions went along in a qui­et atmos­phere” – what inter­est will jour­nal­ists have to such events?

    All this is indica­tive of social fatigue, or, accord­ing to a Sovi­et ter­mi­nol­o­gy, — stag­na­tion. The rou­tine becomes sim­i­lar to lazi­ness: no one wants either lift a sin­gle fin­ger or say a word. Because, there is hope­less­ness – so to say, this will change noth­ing.

    It does not mean that jour­nal­ists have to wait for real elec­tions. In times as such, there should be keen record of what’s going on under the guise of the elec­tions. The dom­i­nat­ing genre here, in my view, is ana­lyt­ics. Peo­ple should see what’s hap­pen­ing behind the façade of these undra­mat­ic, well-direct­ed elec­tions.

    Andrei Bas­tunets:

    I wouldn’t say there is lit­tle cov­er­age of the elec­tions, espe­cial­ly in the state-run press. It seems to me that the elec­tions are more con­spic­u­ous in the media rather than in the pub­lic life. And these are not jour­nal­ists to be brought to account, but rather those who have low­ered the elec­tions to such lev­el.

    The pres­i­dent incum­bent is in the lead of the cam­paign of ignor­ing the elec­tions: he does not speak on TV (note – in the part sched­uled as time for elec­toral agi­ta­tion), he rejects par­tic­i­pa­tion in the debates, he is not men­tioned in the media as a can­di­date at all…

    It is enough to go out to see that the city is bare! Two weeks head of the vot­ing day, and there is hard­ly any polit­i­cal adver­tis­ing.

    I know well what would be hap­pen­ing in Ukraine or in Poland on these days. All around would be plas­tered with elec­toral mate­ri­als, can­di­dates would talk non-stop on TV… This attracts the public’s atten­tion to the events and helps peo­ple make their choice. Here, we have elec­tions as some pre­de­ter­mined rit­u­al, like in Sovi­et time when “it’s all clear”.

    I liked how Ales Antsipen­ka com­pared the elec­tions with a foot­ball game. Imag­ine that the teams go to play, and the sports­cast­er is say­ing all the time that the ref­er­ee is well-dressed, that the game pro­ceeds in a friend­ly atmos­phere, that all rules are observed, that the filed is well-sized and the ball is round etc. One can say noth­ing about the teams then.

     How peo­ple react

    Andrei Bas­tunets:

    In my view, free per­for­mance on TV – so to say, the can­di­dates are enti­tled to half an hour of free talk on state TV – it is a kind of mock­ery. One has to be real­ly enthu­si­as­tic about watch­ing TV, so that to switch on this very pro­gram, which is sched­uled with­out men­tion­ing the name of the can­di­date to speak, and sit in front of the TV for half an hour lis­ten­ing to what the per­son says.

    In the neigh­bor­ing coun­tries, it is arden­cy, bat­tle, it engages. Some­times, of course, it leads to unwant­ed results, when pop­ulists come to pow­er. But, still, it is a con­test of polit­i­cal forces, and not a for­mal drill.  

    Ales Antsipen­ka

    It struck me that this time I hear no ques­tions or what­ev­er reac­tion to this year’s elec­toral cam­paign, though I active­ly com­mu­ni­cate out of home and in the coun­try­side. Peo­ple don’t give a damn, rough­ly speak­ing.

    The sec­ond thing is that these per­for­mances of the can­di­dates look like Hyde Park, a kind of reserve. So to say, here is your half an hour – say what you want because it is all in a lim­it­ed infor­ma­tion­al space. It was lim­it­ed by not call­ing the names of the can­di­dates . there is no pre­vi­ous announce­ment of the per­for­mances, there is no ten­sion. It makes the elec­tions dull for any­one – either for the elec­torate or for jour­nal­ists. Except for jour­nal­ists of state-run mass media, though, who, of course, per­form a kind of a duty of a pub­lic ser­vant.

    Hope for the best, get ready for the worst 

    Andrei Bas­tunets:

    For the time being, the course of the elec­toral cam­paign gives hopes that we will not have what we had at the pre­vi­ous, and one before the pre­vi­ous elec­tions – with search­es at jour­nal­ists’ homes, deten­tions, crim­i­nal cas­es… Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the expe­ri­ence shows that elec­toral cam­paign can­not take place with­out trou­bles. So I bear in mind the say­ing – hope for the best, get ready for the worst.

    Ales Antsipen­ka:

    I can make a kind of humor­ous fore­cast: after the 11th, there will be snow, severe frost and prices for food will rise. Because now the weath­er is being con­trolled, and then it will be set loose… To be seri­ous, I think soon we will see what the real eco­nom­ic sit­u­a­tion is in our coun­try.

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