The date of the next election in Belarus has been established. On January 14, 2007 Belarusian citizens will choose over 22,500 deputies into Local Councils – regional, district, city and village Councils. In its consequences, this election stands beyond any comparison with the presidential election. Coming to the presidential election, even under the authoritarian regime, the citizens choose not merely a head of state, they choose the course for country’s development for the next five years. They choose their future and future for their children after all. This expounds for an extremely high percentage of voters which grows election by election.

Who and why are chosen at the local election, this is what most voters don’t actually understand. Under a stiff presidential vertical of power, independence of Local Councils is very much limited and deputies have a tiny possibility to influence the living of common citizens. According to the official version (see articleSuffrage in Sovetskaya Belorussia of November 9, 2006), “The choice we make will determine how efficiently will the President’s objective to build the state for the people be implemented.” In other words, Local Councils of Deputies aren’t political agents which is already recognized by the official propaganda and even not concealed from the people. Thus, elected representatives of the people appear only assistants in implementation of presidential decisions.

In general, voters do understand this. What’s more, many of them trust to the president and therefore don’t wish to disperse the powers of government. In their opinion, there should be one head in the country. This is not by chance that asked the question “Do you think the powers of Local Councils should be expanded?” 43.8% of respondents said a firm “no.” However, quite many respondents (34%) supported the opposite viewpoint. Nearly every fourth respondent (22%) appeared confused by this question and found it difficult to answer.

Let’s look closer to the above groups of respondents. (See Table 1). This all is not that simple. There are total 49.6% of the polled who are going to vote for a candidate supporting A. Lukashenko, 18.6% who will vote for candidates opposing A. Lukashenko, 12.5% – for other candidates and 19.4% who found it difficult to answer. Contrary to our expectations, percentage of the citizens standing for expansion of powers for Local Councils is much higher among pro-Lukashenko oriented voters than among their opponents. How this can be explained? In our opinion, this is by far a more powerful factor than understanding of the role of local authorities under the current conditions which influenced the final distribution of votes. President A. Lukashenko himself is such a factor. Personification of power in Belarus has reached such a level when most of voters accept any authority as A. Lukashenko’s and this is why don’t stand up for its strengthening in any form.

Table 1. Political characteristics of voters depending on their attitude to expansion of powers for the Local Councils of Deputies, %

Variant of answer

Attitude to expansion of powers for Councils


Don’t agree


For what candidate would you vote at the election?
For A. Lukashenko’s supporter




For A. Lukashenko’s opponent




Do you trust analytical programs of the Belarusian TV?








Trust not




Should representatives of the opposition be included into election commissions?








Will you come to vote at the election into Local Councils of Deputies?








If the above suggestion is true, distribution of answers to all other questions of Table 1 appear quite logic: those who disagree with expansion of powers for Councils give lesser trust to analytical programs of Belarusian TV and they are not very active in their intentions to come to voting, but they more often stand for inclusion of opposition representatives into election commissions.

Data in Table 2 will let us assess the degree of influence Local Councils take on everyday life of citizens. Quite expectedly, the number of respondents who feel this influence is considerably higher among supporters of the authorities. It should be taken into account that in general the degree of people’s trust to Local Councils is not very high and the number of those who trust them is less than those who don’t trust (38.5% vs. 44.3%). To compare, 60.3% of respondents trust to the president and only 26.0% don’t trust him.

What regards local executive authorities, the degree of trust to them is nearly the same as to the Councils. It is possible that the majority of citizens simply don’t see any difference between these two power agencies. This is no wonder under the current political regime in Belarus.

Table 2. Distribution of answers to the question: “To what extent do Local Councils and deputies influence your life?”, %

Variant of answer

All population

Supporters of authorities

Opponents of authorities

Indifferent to politics

Influence significantly





Influence insignificantly





Don’t influence at all





Low importance of the Councils in view of their restricted opportunities is particularly displayed in that 50.9% of respondents don’t know who their deputy is. Nevertheless, the expected attendance should be high. (See Table 3). As the practice shows, the number of those willing to vote is growing as the date of election is coming. The authorities are interested in this. High percentage of attendance is an indicator of public support for them. Actually, this was the basis of all Soviet elections when the percentage of voters was always close to 99.9%. This concern of the government will show up in the election campaign in the state-run mass media which will begin really shortly. Administrative measures will surely be taken to ensure pre-term voting, as it is already a tradition in Belarus. This mechanism works perfectly well and it would be unreasonable not to use it again.

Table 3. Distribution of answers to the question: “Will you come to the election into Local Councils of Deputies which will be held in January of 2007?”, %

Variant of answer

All population

Supporters of authorities

Opponents of authorities

Indifferent to politics











Data in Table 3 let us see not only nation-wide electoral activity but also single it out separately for supporters and opponents of the regime. The difference between the two groups is quite large (19.3%) yet the majority of opponents will also come to voting. These figures witness against those opposition leaders who are consistent with boycotting the election.

Asked “Do you know persons who would be worthy candidates and for whom you would like to vote at the election into Local Councils?” 28.8% said “yes.” This is quite many since the question was asked before the election campaign began and respondents answered from their knowledge of the people around them. In addition, their political preferences are to a great extent based on the national Belarusian peculiarity which is no division into communists and liberals (the left and the right). Understanding of politics is utterly personified, so that making a choice means deciding on the standpoint towards President A. Lukashenko. Proceeding from this logic which is clear for the majority, candidates divide into A. Lukashenko’s supporters and opponents. The decision to vote for “other” candidate is a certain form of weak protest. However, election committees will take maximum efforts to eliminate these “other” from the ballots by the date of election.

The forthcoming election will not be an exception, as it now goes from the results of election commission formation. Not a single representative of the opposition was included into a commission. Paradox of the situation is that, according to the Belarusian legislation, election is a major means of achieving political goals for the parties. Quiet naturally, the parties concerned in transparent voting want to monitor the electoral process. However, representatives of the opposition parties are omitted from election commissions. Perhaps, there’s something the authorities want to conceal from the public. Voters should not forget about this when they fill their ballots before putting into the ballot boxes.

Unlike the officials who form election commissions, voters have a different opinion about presence of opposition representatives in election commissions. Thus, asked the question “Do you think representatives of all political forces including the opposition should be presented in election commissions?” 64.8% of respondents said “yes”. Those who think like Cabinet fighters for public happiness are the minority – 24.5%.

Quite similar is distribution of answers to the question “Do you think observers from all political forces including the opposition should be present at the polling stations?” (“Yes” – 67.8%, “No” – 22.8%). Another point is if independent observers are able to monitor the count of votes taking into account modern electoral procedures which the authorities have been practicing for twelve years by now. It is not by chance that there’s ahead of term voting procedure in Belarus and that attendance percentage is going steadily up election by election. It is already approaching one third of the total number of citizens coming to voting.