There will be elections to the local Soviets in Belarus in the end of March. The elections will be conducted according to the tried-and-true over the last two decades script, if we judge by the results of formation of territorial election committees (only several representatives of opposition are included in 1331 committees of regional, district and city levels).
A record-low (by the Belarusian standards) attendance may become the main peculiarity of the forthcoming elections. In December only 44% of respondents confirmed their intention to take part in the elections (Table 1). The main reason for the refusal to vote is the non-belief in the ability of local Soviets to “solve anything”. In December 2012 23.3% of respondents pointed at that, in March 2010 this share amounted to 18.2%. The lack of belief in the integrity of elections is on the second place in the list of reasons. The growth is almost twofold – from 11.7% to 20.3%!
Table 1. Dynamics of answering the question: “Are you going to vote on the elections of deputies to local Soviets in March 2014?”, %
Variant of answer
Attitude towards A. Lukashenko
Don’t trust
* This variant of answer wasn’t present
The decrease of this index by 20 points at once should be regarded as abnormally high if we take into account that the average potential readiness to vote on local elections amounted to 64% in the beginning of the century.
At first glance the reason for this abnormal behavior is evident. The survey was conducted three month prior to the election, i.e. in the context of almost total absence of election information in the media. In 2010 survey was conducted a month before the election, in 2006 and 2002 – two months prior to the election.
However, local and parliamentary elections in Belarus are “dull” since long ago and this is what distinguishes them from presidential elections. There is a total lack of purposeful efforts for the mobilization of voters; since any mobilization polarizes the voters (as mobilization involves both the supporters and the opponents of the power). That is why the state mass media curb their function in local and parliamentary elections by simply publishing official materials of the Central Electoral Commission.
But the probable low attendance doesn’t look so abnormal against the background of an equally abnormal decrease of trust ratings of state and civil institutes (see Negative Dynamics of Trust to Institutes). We can affirm with a high probability that both cases show different forms of manifestation of the Belarusian society passing to a whole new level of atomization.
This passage started in 2011. The artificial financial crisis was accompanied by a catastrophic decrease of social indices in June-September. The process of rehabilitation started in December 2011. It went on until September 2013. But the society did not regain its initial (pre-crisis) state. Furthermore, its sensitivity to negative economic signals became higher, and this was documented in the last survey.
In such circumstances the demand for individual strategies of surviving becomes higher. (It is true mainly for the societies that don’t have the experience of collective actions.) And this isn’t the right time for taking part in elections, this only legal form of fulfilling the civic duty.
We recommend to the representatives of opposition, who proclaim triumphant strategies on local and parliamentary elections, to pay attention to the last two columns of Table 1. Numerical advantage of A. Lukashenko’s opponents against his supporters is not something that should be expected, despite the fact that in December the share of his opponents exceeded the share of his supporters (37.7% vs. 47.5%). In December the level of declarative readiness to vote among the supporters of the head of state exceeded the same indicator for his opponents by 2.5 times.
The survey of March 2010 was conducted in different socio-economic conditions, when the level of electoral support of A. Lukashenko was different as well (42.7%). Respectively, the readiness to vote for the ruling party candidates was higher (Table 2). But political opponents had equal theoretical chances to be elected in December 2012. Theory however wasn’t confirmed by practice. And the CEC is no stranger to it.


The ability of society to adequately perceive the political reality formed in Belarus over the last 20 years is characterized by the distribution of answers to the question of Table 3. Every fifth of respondents (!) had difficulties answering the questions, and 16.6% of respondents were sure, that the majority of Belarusians would support candidates opposing to A. Lukashenko. Every fourth of the respondents not trusting the head of state believes in the readiness of the majority of voters to vote for opposition candidates.


The high level of volatility of the distribution between the columns should be noted. Power lacks the resources for maintaining socio-economic stability during the intervals between presidential elections. That is why the elections of deputies to local Soviets are conducted in conditions which are not always optimal for the demonstration of the unity of power and people.
Absolute majority of Belarusian voters have difficulties with answering the question: “Do you know who is the deputy of your district in the local Soviet?” (Table 4). There were no statistically significant changes in the level of awareness since March 2010. It is not surprising that the supporters of A. Lukashenko answer positively the question of Table 4 almost twice as often as the opponents of the head of state – 42.9% vs. 23.4%.


The majority of A. Lukashenko’s supporters are “budget-getters”. The distribution of “individual budget allowances” is organized within the local bodies of power. So the supporters of the head of state have to contact them regularly.
But local bodies of power only distribute allowances formed on the highest level of the vertical of power. That is why the influence of local Soviets increases in the “years of abundance” and decreases in the “years of famine” (Table 5). This explains the wave-like change of the structure of answers in the consecutive transition from one column to another.


Belarusians do not express much desire to enlarge the powers of local Soviets (Table 6), although they note the low level of influence on their lives. The supporters of A. Lukashenko are keener on the idea of enlarging the powers of local Soviets than his opponents – 36.3% vs. 22.3%. This is explained by the fact that budget-getters are more interested in functioning of local bodies of power.


In March 2010 62.9% of respondents declared their readiness to vote on the elections in April. Two months later, in June, 64.6% of respondents confirmed their participation in the elections. Three years and nine month later only 43.6% confirmed their participation (Table 7). The decrease by 21 point of the share of those who voted on the elections is caused by the forgetfulness of respondents (local Soviets election is a brush fire event) and by the natural reason – the generation change.


How much will the real attendance in March 2014 differ from the attendance manifested in December 2013? Probably it will be higher but won’t achieve the level of previous elections. The question is open, but one thing is sure: Belarusians shouldn’t expect that the two-digit rate of the incomes’ growth will be preserved.