EHU showcased its involvement in projects aimed at strengthening civil society in Belarus to stakeholders and donors at “Belarus Election in 2015: Too Easy to Write Off?” The event featured presentations of:
Election Observation: Theory and Practice (EOTP), a program that involves students in observing elections in Belarus and elsewher
Electby, an online election observation mapping tool created by a current EHU staff member and alum, and
ePramova, an online platform for political discussions implemented by EHU’s Mediahub
Representatives of the team that manages ePramova—the first Belarusian online platform that facilitates free and open political discussions and allows direct interaction between the public and politicians—say the project not only benefits Belarusian society, but also helps Belarusian politicians hone their public speaking skills. According to them, ePramova offers a forum in which people not only listen to policies proposed by politicians, but are also listened to. It allows ordinary Belarusians to get politicians’ responses to questions that are important to them. EHU students working on the project make sure that politicians’ responses are concise, to the point, and focused on solutions rather than simply naming problems.
EHU Alumni Coordinator Andrei Khrapavitski (BA Political Science and European Studies, 2010) presented Electby, a tool that encourages Belarusians to report election violations. In this way, Belarusians who do not feel comfortable addressing authorities at polling stations can do so via mobile telephone or computer.
“Websites like ours encourage people to speak out about elections not just at their kitchen table, but to share information online and participate more actively in the election process,” notes Khrapavitski.
Meanwhile, some EHU students, faculty, and alumni get even more “hands on” by observing elections in person in Belarus, despite constant intimidation and threats to their personal safety and freedom.
Reporting on recently observed local elections in Belarus and speaking in anticipation of upcoming presidential elections in 2015, EOTP representatives described some of the new techniques Belarusian authorities are using to discourage effective election observation and how observers are dealing with them.
The project showcase was organized in partnership with Belarus Watch.