Another regular parliamentary election took place in Belarus. According to the official data of the Central Election Committee (the CEC) 75.3% of voters participated in the elections. However, a couple of days before the main voting A. Lukashenko, having referred to the data of sociologists, declared that 85% of the Belarusian population were ready to take part in the parliamentary elections. “It is a very substantial percentage. The bigger part of the people considers it their civic duty. Citizens of Belarus… have always demonstrated high turnout and discipline. I am sure this is going to be the case this time as well”, – such was the short comment of the head of state.

We do not presume to find out where 10% of electors – and this is about 700 thousand people – have contrived to disappear during several days. It is more important for us to analyze reliability of the official data made public by the CEC. Data of Table 1 let us conduct such an analysis.

Table 1. Distribution of answers to the question: “Are you going to take part in voting at the parliamentary elections of 2008?”, %

Variant of answer



All respondents

Trust A. Lukashenko

Do not trust A. Lukashenko

Yes, I am





No, I am not





I have not decided yet





During three months since the previous opinion poll the number of respondents who declared their intention to vote has increased by 8.2 percentage points and reached the level of 61.2%, considerable by any standards. At that one should also take into account a quite big share of those who have not made up their minds – 23.5%. Even if a half of them votes, we are going to get a figure close to the one announced by the CEC.

In any case, the attendance level should be recognized as quite high, especially if we take into consideration the fact that the matter concerns parliamentary elections, not presidential ones (earth shattering by definition). Moreover, it is necessary to remember that the state mass media have not been observed by pumping mobilization excitement this time. It is not accidental that A. Lukashenko, too, time and again announced that the course of the election campaign was calm.

The high level of attendance is inherited by the Belarusians from the Soviet past. It is a vivid confirmation of the social inertia preservation. A quite considerable difference in the electoral activity between those who trust and those who do not trust A. Lukashenko is to a certain extent explained by the mentioned above fact, as the share of elderly people in the first group is much higher.

At the parliamentary elections of 2004 the attendance was also high. In the course of the September opinion poll a question was asked, in particular, regarding participation of the respondents in the parliamentary elections of 2004. The question was answered in the affirmative by 63.6% of the respondents, and another 11% indicated they did not remember. If we take into consideration that natural renewal of the electorate has occurred in the course of four years, and today there are people among the polled who could not vote in 2004 owing to their age, than the turnover of 2004 should be recognized quite close to the present one.

However, there is a nuance. Percentage of attendance given by us is taken of the number of the polled, whereas the CEC uses percentage of the payroll. If we take into account that from 0.6 up to 1 mln of the Belarusians constantly work outside Belarus, than a simple arithmetic calculation shows that from 82% up to 90% of the grown-up population permanently living on the territory of the country took part in voting. Such percentage of attendance is usually registered by the Russian CEC in the national republics of Caucasia and Siberia!

It does not matter what nuances we might take into consideration or which correction factor we might introduce – the fact of high electoral activity is indisputable. Belarusian electors perform the ritual of voting, even assuming that their votes do not influence the elections output in any way. There were 45.7% of such electoral nihilists in September, and approximately the same number of their optimistically disposed opponents – 44.1%.

The main intrigue of the parliamentary elections of 2008 was the striving of the Belarusian authorities for obtaining the voting results acknowledgement by the West. The head of the Belarusian state personally headed the team of high rank propagandists. It is possible to compose a large brochure out of his numerous statements regarding democratism and transparency of the forthcoming elections; however, we are going to confine ourselves to a short utterance of his made in Borisov during a break between the events of the national holiday “Dozhynki”: “These are elections of unexampled democratism; elections by the rules of the West”.

Before we analyze the public opinion concerning unexampled democratism of the Belarusian elections, let us also quote A. Zimovsky, head of the Belarusian television and radio company: “To convince oneself that the moral choice is just it is necessary to come to Belarus, to look at people, to try to understand the nation. Perhaps, we are going to be told that we are not doing everything in the correct way from the point of view of the observers’ personal experience, but nobody is going to argue that we are doing everything honestly and openly. Because it is clear for them, too: honesty and morality in politics are European – and Belarusian – principles”.

Let us also “try to understand the nation”. The forthcoming elections (at the point of the opinion poll conducting they were forthcoming for the respondents) were recognized as free and just only by approximately a half of the Belarusians (49.8%), and restricted and unjust – by 30.5%! For the rest 19.7% the given question turned out to be too complicated (!), and they found it difficult to answer.

It is also necessary to remember that the European principle of honesty and morality in politics, which A. Zimovsky was so convincingly talking about, is realized in Belarus in the atmosphere of fear. At that, if we turn to Table 2, the fear is quite stable and does not decrease after a number of years.

Table 2. Dynamics of answering the question: “What do you think about the readiness of people in Belarus to express their political views?”, %

Variant of answer







Nobody is afraid







Only some people are afraid







Many people are afraid







Everybody is afraid







As another illustration of “unexampled democratism” of the Belarusian elections one should also regard answers to the question: “In your opinion, is real struggle among candidates going to take place at the forthcoming elections, or is it going to be just an imitation of this struggle and distribution of places in the House of Representatives is going to be defined by the authorities beforehand?” In this case, even if with a slight advantage (41.8 to 39.2), the victory was gained by those who suppose that places in the parliament were distributed by the authorities beforehand.

Data of Table 3 let us kind of separate the generalized trust/distrust into its constituent parts. In them, if one wishes to, it is possible to find a logical paradox: trust to the Central Election Committee is two times higher than to divisional and district election committees. As it is known, the results of voting are formed in particular at the level of the latter ones, and the CEC only sums them up. To all appearances, disposition of many Belarusians to treat the central authorities with deep respect once again becomes apparent in such answers.

Table 3. Distribution of answers to the question: “Whose information about the elections results do you trust most of all?” (more than one answer is possible)

Variant of answer


Of the central election committee


Of international organizations observers


Of divisional and district election committees


Of deputy candidates themselves


Of the opposition observers


Of the government and administration bodies observers


Of the court bodies observers




The very fact of recognition of the election process imitating character does not turn Belarusian voters into active fighters for the truth. Exactly one half of the respondents when answering the question “What would you do if you found out that the results of the elections had been faked-up?” said briefly and to the point: “Nothing”. Other 26.7% would tell their acquaintances about the falsification. Respondents disposed more resolutely declared their readiness to support reference of the “loser” candidate in the court. There turned out to be 10.3% of such people. And only 7.5% of respondents would go out to a street protest action.

However, the last two answers should be regarded as declaration of intention rather than readiness to real actions. Absence of crowds made out of those who would like to support their candidates in front of the law-courts and in the city squares clearly confirms the given conclusion.

Speaking live on the ONT TV channel on September, 29 president’s assistant V. Yanchevsky with reference to the last opinion poll conducted by the IISEPS reported to the audience that only 8.8% of electors had announced their readiness to vote for the leaders of the opposition parties. The chief ideologist of Belarus was not mistaken; he said the truth, however, not the whole truth which is confirmed by the data of Table 4.

Table 4. Distribution of answers to the question: “Imagine that at the deputy elections you have to choose one of the candidates listed below. Which of them would you vote for?”

Variant of answer


A deputy of the present National Assembly


A director of a state enterprise


A businessman who has a business of his own


A leader or an activist of a non-government organization


A leader of an opposition party (movement)


None of them




In the course of the September opinion poll respondents were also offered to choose among supporters of A. Lukashenko, his opponents and other candidates. The votes spread in the following way: 43.5% – for supporters, 19.6% – for opponents and 21.9% – for other candidates. Another 15% found it difficult to answer. At that when respondents were answering the question: “In your opinion, who are the majority of electors going to vote for?” the ratio concerning the same three variants of answers shifted in favor of A. Lukashenko’s supporters: 59.6, 10.6 and 9.4% respectively (20.4% found it difficult to answer).

Don’t answers to two questions close in their essence contradict each other, or is the popularity of the opposition parties’ leaders precisely twice as lower as the popularity of A. Lukashenko’s abstract opponents?

We suppose that such a conclusion should be considered incorrect, as an expanded list of answer variants in the first question resulted in decrease in the share of affirmative answers concerning each variant. Besides, as a matter of principle, one should not compare close, as it would seem, questions quantitatively. A lot depends on the wording of a question. And respondents do not always understand the meaning of a question the same way as its authors. In the given case votes of A. Lukashenko’s opponents simply spread among the leaders of opposition parties and heads of civil society organizations.

If we address ourselves to the recent past (the parliamentary elections of 2004), we will see that the outcome regarding support of A. Lukashenko’s adherents and opponents turns out to be quite close to the present one (34.5% – for supporters, 10.6% – for opponents). In this case we should take into account the demographic shift, which was mentioned above, and also the considerable share of those who do not remember (19.1%) and those who found it difficult to answer (29.4%).

Talking about the parliamentary elections of 2008 we could not but mention the topic of boycott which was so wildly discussed in the opposition environment. In the course of the September opinion poll a question about the respondents’ attitude to the boycott was asked. It was treated positively only by 8.8%, indifferently – 24.8%, negatively – 26.5%. However, the most numerous group was constituted by those who had not heard anything about the boycott – 38.9%. On the other hand, if we return to the first two columns of Table 1 it becomes clear that the idea of the parliamentary elections boycott was quite popular among voters in opposition to the authorities.

Poet V. Mayakovsky has a beautiful poetic line in which he tried to ascertain the cause-and-effect relation between the process of stars lightning and their public good. Let us remind it: “If stars are being lighted, than someone needs it”. Reasoning by analogy, we would take the liberty of stating that if the Belarusians vote so actively at the parliamentary elections, than for some reason they need the parliament. Our assumption is based on the opinion of 65.3% of the Belarusians, who answered in the affirmative to the question: “In your opinion, does Belarus need the House of Representatives of the National Assembly (the parliament), or can the life in Belarus be organized by the president equally well?” Three times fewer citizens agreed to live in the country governed solely by the will of the president (21.4%). For the sake of comparison let us mention that in Russia according to the data of the “Levada-Center” the ratio of answers to a similar question turned out to be in favor of the parliament, though not so convincingly – 48% vs. 37%.

What do the Belarusians elect deputies of the higher legislative body for? Anyone who thinks that for working out and passing laws in the first place is mistaken. For the Belarusians a deputy is a protector of electors’ interests; he is simply another authority which one can appeal to with a complaint on careless local officials (Tables 5-7). It should be mentioned that this point of view is equally supported by those who trust and by those who do not trust A. Lukashenko, which is seldom the case in Belarus.

Table 5. Distribution of answers to the question: “What, in your opinion, is the main duty of a deputy of the parliament?”

Variant of answer


To protect the interests of the electors of his constituency


To elaborate and pass laws


To execute orders of the president


To elaborate and conduct state policy on his own






Table 6. Distribution of answers to the question: “What do you expect from the new membership of the House of Representatives?” (more than one answer is possible)

Variant of answer


A better life for me and my family


Increase in salaries and pensions


Increase in social security and stability


Increase in opportunities for democracy and personal self-expression


Improvement of relations with the West


Representatives of the opposition will get to the House of Representatives


I expect nothing




Table 7. Distribution of answers to the question: “Which of the problems listed below is crucial for you when you choose a candidate to vote for?” (more than one answer is possible)

Variant of answer


Increase in the living standard


Health protection


Rise in prices


Creation of jobs


Payment of pensions


Democracy and independence of Belarus




Relations with Europe


Relations with Russia






Religious freedom


An impression is formed that respondents answering the questions of the last three tables were concerned exclusively with their everyday life, and their life is restricted to the circle of common problems: salaries, pensions etc. The bond of this circle with laws is unobvious for many people. When actions and their consequences are dispersed in time, it is not so easy to catch the cause-and-effect relation, and the logic of those who are concerned only with their everyday life turns out to be powerless in this case. That is why they vote with enviable permanency for the politicians who promise to place the plants in operation “here and now”.

As it is known, electors are not inclined to minutely familiarize themselves with programs of candidates. Such political carelessness is quite explicable if one is guided by the above mentioned logic. However, presence of a program is undoubtedly an advantage for any contender for the deputy chair. The main thing that electors should know about the program is that the candidate has it.

As it follows from Table 8 by no means every deputy contender managed to persuade his electors that he possessed a program. It seems that candidates supporting the authorities were able to do it better. However, the registered difference is most likely explained by the political structure of the Belarusian society rather than by agitational abilities of candidates. The explanation is quite simple: there are more of the authorities supporters in the Belarusian society; hence the ability of candidates supporting the authorities to elaborate programs is estimated higher.

Table 8. Distribution of answers to the question: “In your opinion, do deputy candidates have real programs for life improvement in the country?”, %

Variant of answer

Yes, they do

No, they do not


Candidates supporting the authorities




Opposition candidates




The world view of those who are primarily concerned with their everyday life can serve us a certain frame for understanding the answers to the question: “Does the work of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus influence your life or the life of your family?” 49.1% of respondents confidently declared: “‘Yes, it does”‘, and 37.1% – “No, it does not”, which is quite a lot, isn’t it? The question: “In your opinion, is the House of Representatives, which is to be elected at the impending elections going to reflect the interests of the society?” brought approximately the same ratio of affirmative and negative answers (“I think, yes” – 47.8% and “I think, no” – 34.8%). At that, which is quite natural, among optimists who are sure that deputies are going to represent their interests, there turned out to be almost two times more of those who trust A. Lukashenko than of those who do not trust him (61.7% vs. 33.1%).

Concluding the elections topic let us dwell on the informational provision of the electoral process. Data of Table 9 let us state that considerable reformatting of the country’s informational space has occurred during the last four years. A. Lukashenko repeatedly spoke about infringements he had to commit in order to satisfy the demands of the West. Apparently he meant the second demonstration of the deputy candidates’ appearance on the state TV channels. The last opinion poll just registered more than twofold increase in the TV constituent (+17.3 percentage points). The main surprise, however, waits for us at comparing the contribution of such agitation component as pre-election leaflets, posters and bills in the streets – all the things the Belarusian opposition was traditionally strong at. To all appearances in the course of the last election campaign its main energy was spent on sorting out relationship inside the joint democratic forces regarding the boycott of the elections.

Table 9. Dynamics of answering the question: “From what sources do you get the information about candidates and their programs?” (more than one answer is possible)

Variant of answer



From television broadcasts



From the state press



From radio broadcasts



From colleagues at work, acquaintances, neighbors



From pre-election leaflets, posters and bills in the streets



From the Internet



From the non-governmental press



From meetings with candidates and persons empowered to act for them



From managers at work



I have no information about candidates



* In the opinion poll of 2004 the press was not divided into state and non-governmental
** The given variant of answer was not offered

The imitating essence of the Belarusian parliament is the result of the “marriage of convenience” between the authoritarian power and the part of the Belarusian society which should be placed among the audience rather than among the nation or the electorate. The authoritarian power made a social contract exactly with the audience having offered stability in exchange for unconditional support. In the world of political imitations politicians, whom deputies of the parliament should also be attributed to, adjust their actions to the guiding instructions of the higher superiors rather than to the interests of the electors. That is why end of the electoral process also means end of the active stage of politicians’ and electors’ interaction. Ahead of the newly-elected deputies is…public service.