Specified Question and Its Answer
According to official results, Lukashenko won with 80% of the votes while Tsikhanouskaya received merely 10%.
After the elections, the demonstrations began. The demands of the opposition were varying:
- to recount the votes;
- to organize new elections;
- to officially declare Tsikhanouskaya as the elected president.
OMON reacted, using excessive violence that has been well-documented in countless videos available on the internet.
Western countries finally converged to the conclusion that they did not accept the election results. As one of the main reasons, the extensive election fraud with an abundance of evidence of it was quoted. Western mainstream media has countlessly repeated that the election results were extensively faked and that it has been sufficiently proved. However, rarely any evidence or even any exact references to the sources have been presented. Therefore, a natural question arises:
Whether the election fraud was proved at the moment when Western countries claimed these elections to be faked?
This question, however, has to be specified:
Whether the elections were seriously faked?
Election frauds are occurring here and there. Usually, these are minor faults that do not concern the elections as a whole. There has to be something sufficiently serious to annul election results or the elections. There also have to be some laws regulating this issue. What are Belarusian laws saying about that? What are the European Union’s laws saying about that and are European norms relevant to Belarus? — Those who do not accept Belarusian elections do not address these questions. Western politicians and mainstream media are making propaganda but rarely they explain anything.
There is another nuance we have to specify:
Whether the election fraud has been proved publicly?
If we are to decide about these elections, then it is insufficient if the opposition there, in Belarus, knows about the fraud: they have to prove it to us. Analogously, in a democratic society, it is insufficient if the intelligence agency knows that there was a fraud — if that agency does not present a public proof. Intelligence agencies “knew” that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So, Iraq was occupied. But there were no such weapons. Intelligence agencies came up with that story about these weapons to justify the aggression.
To my unpleasant surprise, I have arrived at the negative conclusion:
At the moment when we (more exactly: our governments) declared Belarusian elections to be invalid, we either did not have conclusive evidence about extensive fraud or such evidence was not presented to the publicity.
What this Essay is Not about
In the present essay, I shall not discuss whether Lukashenko’s regime is a dictatorship. The question here is not about whether Lukashenko is a dictator but about whether people elected him.
I shall also not address the question of whether Lukashenko eliminated his main rivals before the elections. If the elections were unfair, it was possible to boycott the elections and Western countries could declare at once that they will not acknowledge these elections.
I shall not address the question of why the observers did not arrive in Belarus. Again, it was possible to declare immediately that the elections will not be acknowledged. (In the UN, Estonian foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu did not provide in his speech any evidence that Belarusian elections were faked. His sentence “The election results were faked, international independent observers were not present,” may make a false impression as if the absence of the observers proves that the election results were faked. Quite on the contrary: if the observers were absent, then they could not observe the frauds. The absence of the observers makes the fraud possible, but it proves in no way that this possibility was used. Actually, only Western observers were absent.)
Massive protests after the elections and excessive violence of OMON are also irrelevant to our question. The protests are showing that many people are dissatisfied with the elections, but it does not prove that the elections were falsified. Excessive violence against the demonstrators is a crime, but it is not proof that the demands of the demonstrators were justified.
I shall also not tackle the issue that the demonstrations were not always so peaceful (it was clearly shown on Belarusian opposition channels, but kept quiet about in the West).
Proved Cases of Election Fraud
There are some cases of election fraud or fraud attempts in Belarus that have been sufficiently proved. Sometimes, the details are quite sinister as one official reportedly died by suicide after refusing to certify the falsified tally.
On Youtube, there is a 15-minutes long sound recording made in Vitebsk polling station — the chief demands to sign a new tally faked in favour of Lukashenko.
Such cases are clear symptoms of a corrupt system. Unfortunately, the outsider cannot justifiably infer “If they did it N times, then they did it very often.” Neither can one evaluate the extent of the election fraud based on some rare confirmed cases. This uncertainty is always a tragedy for those who know.
Opposition Observes the Elections: ZUBR
In Belarus, the opinion polls concerning the elections are banned. International observers were absent too. However, to observe and check the elections, the opposition has established the website ZUBR.
ZUBR is also represented in Telegram channel
In Belarus, the election tallies are not openly on the internet. Finally, they will be destroyed as well as the ballot papers. However, meanwhile, it is possible to take some photos in the polling stations. ZUBR has collected such photos. These photos of election tallies are the only means to access the official results of polling stations.
ZUBR has tried to detect the election frauds and even to calculate the “right” election results, establishing something like “the people’s election centre”.
Unfortunately, the “parallel elections” might be even more difficult to check than the official ones. Naturally, a question arises about who are these people in ZUBR, who is financing and instructing them, etc.
According to Novaya Gazeta, ZUBR has succeeded to collect photos of 1/4 of election tallies. According to some social media posts, 1/3 of the tallies have been photographed.
Now, however, it is clear that we have to deal with the dark side of statistics because most of the tallies are missing and perhaps forever.
Attempts to Statistically Prove the Election Fraud
Novaya Gazeta has published an article “Crashed President”.
This article describes a statistical analysis based on 900 election tallies of polling stations, representing almost 1/4 of Belarus constituency (there are 6000 polling stations in Belarus).
One additional assumption has been made. It has been assumed that in percents, the election results should not much depend on the turnout.
It has been concluded that the election tallies have been faked during the early elections. Then, if the turnout increases, Lukashenko’s advantage in percents increases.
According to Sergey Shpilkin’s statistical analysis, during the early elections, the turnout has been faked to be higher almost two times.
According to the analysis presented in Novaya Gazeta, the elections were faked also when calculating the sum of the (already faked) election tallies.
This analysis suggests the following real result:
- Lukashenko — 43%
- Tsikhanouskaya — 45%
Neither the estimated error nor the probability of such results has been mentioned. Novaya Gazeta has not presented the raw data of the calculations (there is, however, a link to Shpilkin’s post on Facebook, where some tables have been presented). The methodology of the analysis has not been presented. Some names of the experts have been quoted (eg, Boris Ovtchinnikov from the company Data Insight). Nevertheless, it might be the case that the other experts cannot check these calculations presented in Novaya Gazeta.
There are further obstacles.
First, to reveal the fraud, the opposition agitated to vote for Tsikhanouskaya on the last days of the elections, and many indeed did do. However, it seems to contradict the assumption that in percents, the election results should not much depend on the turnout. If the supporters of Tsikhanouskaya voted on the last days, then, of course, they were missing on the first days.
Second, the statistical inference from 1/4 of the cases to all cases is dubious. To be a reliable inference, these 1/4 cases have to be a random sample. However, because of various reasons, that sample may be unintentionally or intentionally biased. In a region, where the supporters of Lukashenko are dominating, people might be afraid to take photos of election tallies. In such regions, the supporters of Tsikhanouskaya are not motivated to send such photos. Finally, someone in ZUBR might delete such photos that are showing Lukashenko’s obvious superiority. If the supporters of Lukashenko are accused of faking the election tallies and later burning them — then an objective and neutral observer has to consider also the possibility that the enemies of Lukashenko might destroy the evidence during their “alternative elections”.
The experts on statistics can dispute forever about these elections — just like they dispute the climate warming. Even other mathematicians might not understand their arguments.
Such complex statistical arguments can hardly prove anything for ordinary men.
Digital Forensic Research Lab has also presented its analysis. Their number of data used is even less — 100 randomly chosen election tallies. They are correctly pointing out that their result is
“inherently biased and thus inconclusive”:
- Lukashenko — 55%
- Tsikhanouskaya — 40%
They also add that
“there is no way to verify the authenticity of the crowdsourced results”.
And we cannot check whether their calculations are valid, whether their sample was indeed random and what was their initial set of election tallies.
(After my present article was written, Craig Murray published a paper “Western Media Misperceptions About Belarus, Lukashenko & Putin”. Murray believes that Lukashenko won the elections with the result approximately 60% and that the remaining 20% were falsified. My analysis here neither confirms nor denies that hypothesis. Murray’s hypothesis is one plausible hypothesis among others, consistent with my arguments presented here.
According to “Voice Report,” the real results were: Lukashenko — 61.7% and Tsikhanouskaya— 25.4%.)
Hiding the Sources
I have asked many times, where is the proof that there was extensive election fraud in Belarus? Where are the sources? Where is the evidence?
No one has provided me with a sufficiently exact answer. Sometimes, no answer is coming. Sometimes, my question has been deleted from the web page. Sometimes, the answer is as vague as the answer “On the internet.”
The foreign ministers of the member states of the European Union jointly announced that they did not accept the election results. The reasons were published on various social media posts and web pages. Commonly, they were talking only about the violence of OMON after the elections, and about the unfairness of the elections. No arguments were presented that the election results were extensively falsified. It was simply dogmatically asserted.
“EU: Belarus Elections ‘Falsified’” — On the commentary of that article, I asked where was the proof that the elections were extensively falsified. I got the answer that in the future, they were taking my question into account. Foreign ministers have made their decision, but their press secretariat is still thinking about how to justify this decision! They added that there were human rights organizations somewhere in the world and that they had a lot of photos to deal with. I am sure they have a lot of photos of OMON and no photo of the extensive election fraud. On that web page of diplomats, later I did not find my question. It has vanished. The visitors of that page can read that they are the first ones to comment.
In the article “Lukashenko had to Greatly Falsify Even the Unfair Elections” the author Mihhail Lotman, who is introduced as a professor of semiotics (irrelevant information trying to convey authority on the article), writes:
“For now, a large amount of evidence has been gathered, proving the election fraud.”
No references, no links. On the commentary, someone asked a link, but no answer was coming. The article was based on the blog post. In that blog post, there were no usable references or links.
The Number of Demonstrators Does Not Prove the Extensive Election Fraud
Telegram channel NEXTA Live has been one of the main news channels of Belarus opposition. They have reported huge numbers of demonstrators but avoided reporting the percents. Once, it was announced that in Grodno, 10% of the local population was present on the demonstration.
In Minsk, once there were 70 000 – 200 000 people on the streets. There are at least 2 000 000 people in the town.
200 000/2 000 000 = 0.1 = 10%
Probably, in Belarus, much more than 10% of the people are against Lukashenko. But we do not know the opinion of that 90% who were not present in the demonstration.
Unfortunately, these numbers do not prove either that Tsikhanouskaya won the elections. These numbers even do not prove that more than half of the electorate (or population) is against Lukashenko now.
It is possible, that the adversaries of Lukashenko are simply more active.
In democracy, it is unimportant how furious are the supporters of someone. Their number is all that matters.
However, for a coup or regime change, it might be enough if only 3.5% of people are participating in the demonstrations, writes Sam Aiken.
There are countless video proofs of the violence of OMON after Belarus elections. But a public proof of the extensive election fraud is difficult to come. Some proofs presented are suspicious. Nevertheless, sharp political actions have been based on the thesis about the extensive election fraud.
The only thing we know for sure is that the elections were suspicious. But it is not proof of the serious election fraud.
“… if they had [a proof] they would use it,”
Months later, the OSCE report on Belarus elections was published.
Western mainstream media as well as Belarus opposition channels declared that the OSCE had provided evidence about the election forgery in Belarus. I was happy to hear that, finally, the EU has been able to provide a public analysis about the falsification of the election results in Belarus. So, I wanted to see whether there were some important new facts and documents revealed, whether the proof of the election fraud and its extent had been made more rigor, whether other experts can check the calculations now (the repeatability of analysis).
Unfortunately, the paper I read from Estonian news, while declaring in the caption that the falsification of election results has been proved by OSCE, discussed only the violations of human rights in Belarus. These violations of human rights were evident anyway. That paper also did not provide an exact reference to the OSCE report or a direct link to it.
A day later, the report itself appeared on the internet.
However, the OSCE report is devoted to the violations of human rights in Belarus (before, during, and after the elections). The report contains 59 pages and only 4 pages are devoted to the elections and its results (pp. 18−21):
- II.A.2.c. Issues related to the conduct of the elections (pp. 18−20);
- II.A.2.d. Issues related to election results (pp. 20−21);
- II.A.2.e. Summary of findings on the allegations of election fraud (p. 21).
It turns out that this OSCE report does not contain any analysis of the falsification of election results.
The issue of election fraud has been discussed, but the “fraud” has been considered in a wider context, including violations of different norms. Again, such violations are making faking or falsification of the results possible and probable, the presence of such violations are sufficient to declare that there is a reasonable doubt about the election results, but the mere fact of such violations of the code does not prove that such possibilities to falsify have been actually used. Such analysis also does not allow to evaluate, how much the election results were falsified, how trustful is the analysis of the election results and whether the extent of the election falsification amounts to the need to cancel the results or even to the proof that some different candidate is the real winner of the elections.
While the author of the report Professor Dr. Wolfgang Benedek is an expert on the international law, there are several relevant places in the analysis, where a reference and quotation of Belarus election law was relevant and required, but missing.
In this report, the election falsification has been mentioned only as a claim of Belarus opposition, there are references to corresponding websites like ZUBR, but no evaluation or critical analysis of these analyses has been given in the report.
Thus, in essence, Belarus opposition channels are spreading information that the OSCE report proves the falsification of election results, while the report only refers back to the very same opposition channels itself. It sounds like a circular proof for the sake of political propaganda.
In the summary about the elections, the OSCE report (p. 21) does not mention the falsification of the election results (no similar word is occurring there). The report demands annulling the elections based on the violations of human rights, of the election code and of international standards.
Thus, the news that the OSCE has proved the extensive falsification of Belarus election results is plainly false.
Later, I discussed about it in r/Eesti – the subreddit of Reddit. My comprehensive comment that the OSCE report does not contain any analysis of the falsification of election results was deleted. Most of the commentators intentionally misinterpreted my arguments and made several personal attacks, accusing me in “supporting the dictatorship in Belarus”. – I am convinced that such people are supporting the dictatorship in the European Union, as they are supporting fake news and false information.
The EU is sufficiently rich and has sufficiently many excellent scientists to produce a sober report about the falsification of election results. It is in no way my fault if they have been unable to present any acceptable analyses and arguments.
Aiken, S. “Decentralized Governance: Inside Hong Kong’s Open Source Revolution…” Medium (September 11, 2019)
“Belarus Election: Open-Source Election Reports Raise Questions about Official Results” Digital Forensic Research Lab, Medium (August 19, 2020)
Bontch-Osmolovskaya, K. & Schennikov, A. “Crashed President” Novaya Gazeta (August 14, 2020)
Eintalu, J. & Maiste, V.-S. “Patriotism Should Not Duzzle Reason. An Interview with a Philosopher Jüri Eintalu” Sirp (August 28, 2020). — In Estonian.
Eintalu, J. “ Has it been Publicly and Convincingly Proved that the Results of Belarusian Presidential Elections were Significantly Faked?” Tumblr (August 28, 2020). — In Estonian.
“EU: Belarus Elections ‘Falsified’” Europe Diplomatic (August 14, 2020)
“How Elections were Rigged in Vitebsk on August 9, 2020” Belarus Lives Matter, Youtube (August 10, 2020)
Knightly, K. “Belarus in the Firing Line for a Colour Revolution” Fort Russ News (August 17, 2020)
Lotman, M. “Lukashenko had to Greatly Falsify Even the Unfair Elections” Postimees (August 15, 2020). — In Estonian.
On Lotman’s blog: http://www.lotman.ee/blogi/riigikogu-valiskomisjoni-avaldus-kontekstis
Murray, C. “Western Media Misperceptions About Belarus, Lukashenko & Putin” Consortium News (27. august 2020)
OSCE Rapporteur’s Report under the Moscow Mechanism on Alleged Human Rights Violations related to the Presidential Elections of 9 August 2020 in Belarus. Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (5 November 2020)
Ots, M. “The OSCE Report Certifies the Election Forgery and Violence of Authorities in Belarus” Eesti Rahvusringhääling (5 August 2020)
Reinsalu, U. “Statement by Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs at UN Security Council´s AOB on Belarus” Permanent Mission of Estonia to the UN (August 18, 2020)
Shpilkin, S. “Evaluation of the Turnout of Belarusian Pre-Elections Based on the Evidence from Official Tallies and Observers” Facebook (August 10, 2020)
“Voice Report” Voice (August 21, 2020)