“The election into the 25th Local Councils of Deputies has taken place!” We deliberately put this sentence into inverted commas. This is a quote from the article “Local Councils have been formed” published in Sovetskaya Belorussia of January 16. Let’s quote it on: “All the concerns about activity of voters cleared away on the voting day when the first preliminary results just started coming from polling stations. The final data was announced yesterday – 78.7%! Can anyone say after this that the Local Election is of little importance?…”

Before we present the results of the January opinion poll, we should like to look into the previous opinion poll. In the beginning of November 2006, ten weeks before the voting, respondents were asked the following question “Are you going to come to the election into the Local Councils of Deputies in January of 2007?” Now, 65.7% of respondents answered in the positive, 20.3% – in the negative and 14% of the polled found it difficult to answer. What’s more, readiness to take part in the voting among the citizens supporting the authorities was significantly higher than among the citizens opposing the power (79.6% vs. 60.3%).

By the tradition the number of voters who attended the election registered during the opinion poll was considerably less than the figures announced by the Central Election Commission. (See Table 1). Simple math shows that members of election commissions at all levels managed to found hidden electoral reserves amounting to at least 1.2 million people. This very fact is not surprising in itself. It is the following fact that was unexpected: the number of those who voted in January, according to the opinion poll, was lower than the number of those who said in November that they would vote. The difference is not very big (3.9 points) but it does exist.

Table 1. Distribution of answers to the question: “Did you come to vote at the election into Local Councils of Deputies in January of 2007?”

Variant of answer








Such variance between declared intentions and real deeds is quite habitual for sociologists. As a rule, the number of those who air their readiness to take part in actions of protest is two orders lower than the real number of protesting. What kept the Belarusian voters home on that January Sunday? It is hard to give one answer to this question. It is entirely possible that 38.2% of Belarusians don’t think the local election to be of great importance, unlike editorship of Sovetskaya Belorussia assumes.

Apart from importance, there’s also practical use. In the opinion of 44.5% of the polled, Local Councils are of no use as they “don’t at all affect” the life of citizens. Another 35.1% notice some elements of activity (“affect insignificantly”) and only 15.7% agree that the Local Councils “affect significantly.”

The level of voters’ concern is indirectly shown in their answers to the question “Do you know the results of the election into Local Councils?” Those who do are under a half in Belarus (48.2%). Every third of those who came to the voting (34.6%) doesn’t know final voting results in his/her constituency. Apparently, they were so much carried away with the very voting procedure that they didn’t have either vigor or desire to find out the results.

Habit is the second nature. Now, we could literally see that the Soviet habit to come to voting was strengthened with the habit to vote ahead of term. According to the polling results, 23.4% of respondents voted ahead of term (on January 9-13). This is the part of the general number of voters! If we calculate it of the number of voters who came to the election, this figure will be 37.9%. If the tendency continues, there will be no need to open polling stations on the date of election.

The majority of advance voters made this civil deed freely. Yet the minority of 11.5% respondents said they were forced to vote ahead of term. If we look on the results of the latest presidential election, the number of those forced was substantially lower – 4.9%. It seems the role of presidential election cannot be compared with that of local election under the current authorities, so where are the roots of such a trend? Where does such a tendency come from?

In our opinion, it proceeds from the very scheme of authoritarian regime development. Having once chosen the goal and having determined the instruments to achieve it, the system is not able to stop. What first was done at the local level by the order only and sometimes contrary to personal attitudes, gradually became everyday routine. This accounts for the above data.

One more example. Asked “Did anyone force you to vote ahead of term at this election or not?”, only 4.4% answered in the positive. This figure might seem very little especially as compared to the presidential election (14%). Isn’t there a contradiction with the above said? The key is very simple. Entry in general around Belarus was quite nominal – 1.1 candidate per one deputy seat. The majority of those who could win something were eliminated yet on preliminary stages. Therefore, there was no need for the authorities to work with the voters.

Taking into account this preliminary cleanup, still 26.3% of respondents point out to unequal conditions for the candidates (47.1% supported the opposite viewpoint). The number of voters who answered in the positive to the question “Did the authorities show their support to some candidate in your constituency?” appeared very significant (35.1%). Their opponents were an obvious minority – 23.3% and another 41.6% found it difficult to give an answer.

Elections of any level in Belarus traditionally raise questions about trust to the official results. The latest election wasn’t an exception. Asked the question “Do you think the announced results of election into Local Councils of Deputies can be trusted?”, 55.3% of respondents answered in the positive and 25.1% – in the negative. It should be noted that the general framework of trust/distrust to an election of any level in Belarus is determined by the very structure of the Belarusian society.

This framework is well seen when it comes to assessment of conclusions made by independent observers and the opposition about many violations of the law on the part of election commissions. 25.7% of respondents agree with such conclusions (coincidence with the number of those distrusting the election results is almost total) and 43.4% – disagree (abatement of the number of not agreeing is caused by the nature of the question.) The question about violation of the law by election commissions, as compared to the question about honesty of commission members, is difficult to answer for many respondents, which is seen in growing part of those who found it difficult to answer – 30.9%.

In view of objective reasons, elections at the local level are less politicized. Purposeful absence of alternative at these elections to a certain extent contributes to this. Nevertheless, respondents weren’t confused by the question about political preferences during the latest election. Most of them voted for A. Lukashenko’s adherents. The candidates openly positioning themselves as president’s opponents were only a few hundred (out of 23,000 deputy seats) in the final lists. Therefore, it should be no wonder that such low number of respondents voted for candidates opposing A. Lukashenko.

Table 2. Distribution of answers to the question: “For what candidate did you vote?”

Variant of answer


For a candidate supporting A. Lukashenko


For a candidate opposing A. Lukashenko


For other candidate


I didn’t come to voting




Intermediate conclusion about outlining tendencies in the election process should be rather moved into the list of basic conclusions. Answering to the question asked January 14 at the polling station No. 1 in Minsk “What does the Belarusian state wait from the new convocation of Local Councils?”, President A. Lukashenko aired the official viewpoint, “These are particular questions that need to be solved at the local level rather than talkfest or intrigues.” Elaborating on this, he expressed his happiness about cooperation of local executive committees and Local Councils. This friendship has its history: it is not for the first year that deputies of the National Assembly and Presidential Administration work together generating new tendencies.

Coming to election still remains a major kind of political activity for Belarusians and the authorities support this because the power cannot become legitimate without the voting procedure. In pursuit of personal goals through mobilization campaigns the power as well mobilizes its opponents. This effect isn’t purely Belarusian. Color revolutions often happen at the moment of the election. As a rule, injustice that voters survive from numerous falsifications of election results serves here a detonator. There’s no lack of such cases in Belarus. The January election wasn’t an exception.