IISEPS News, N 2 (40), 2006




Presidential election: myths or reality
Presidential campaign in the eyes of voters
Election results in the light of basic socio-demographic groups
Protest potential
Voters between Russia and Europe
What does the majority want?
Socio-economic situation in the country vs. electorate
Some results of the opinion poll conducted in March-April
Final results of the presidential election
Enduring echo of Chernobyl
Is everything that fine with us?
The majority loves Russia and not USSR!
Innocence vs. Beltransgaz
Where does Europe end?
Foes are still all around?
Some results of the opinion poll conducted in April

Elite as an agent of social life
Belarusian elite looks at the West
Paying but not with “family jewels”
Youths don’t see prospects for them in Belarus
Are Belarusians contented with how Chernobyl problems are solved?
Nostalgic elite

Annual speech of the President
Whose interests does A. Lukashenko uphold?
“Homo soveticus”
Indirect indicators of discontent
Trust to the civil society is going down…
Economics vs living
Following gas conflict
A. Lukashenko vs. V. Putin: who will have the upper hand?
Integration with Russia as a means of power retaining
European minimum
Are we looking for changes?
Social justice in Belarus in the eyes of Belarusians
Trends of change in Belarusian public opinion on socio-economic and political issues

Does Pussia and Europe need us?
(about Round table in Vitebsk)


Pavel Severinets, leader of Young Front
Prospects for Belarus: a look from Maloe Sitna

Correspondence with the General Prosecutor’s Office


Konstantin Skuratovich, Ph.D.
“Heart-to-Heart Conversation”


Dear readers!


We can say we are having a celebration this time. We offer to your attention the 40th issue of the analytical bulletin IISEPS News presenting the materials which reflect the most important findings of the Institute in the second quarter of 2006.
It is hard to believe that under the severe political climate of Belarus, despite all possible problems, our readers (among whom there are friends and rivals, Belarusian and foreign citizens, experts and people who are far from politics or science) received the edition which have no analogs in this country in every quarter over the past ten years – without a break or delay.
Clearly, the most important events and issues of the past three months are direct or indirect aftermaths of the March events. This is why a greater part of informational materials and analytics presented in this issue is in this or that way related to the presidential election – its results or consequences. The election results themselves (let alone their analysis) published in April researches of independent sociologists produced an uncommonly stormy reaction – both on the part of the authorities and on the part of the opposition. The reaction of the authorities was tough but predictable: Prof. Manaev was given the second official notice from the Prosecutor’s Office “About impermissibility of law violation” recommending to “stop distributing unreliable data about the results of the presidential election of 2006 and conducting socio-political researches contrary to the law.” In case this activity continues, it warns about criminal liability in accordance with Article 369-I of the Criminal Code of Belarus “Discrediting of the Republic of Belarus” and imprisonment up to two years. Reaction of the opposition appeared unexpectedly similar: the sole presidential candidate for democratic forces publicly stated that “Belarus almost dropped out of the field of sociological studies” and “scientific approach is presently impossible in this country” (read: these results can be disregarded.) In fact, this means that neither the authorities nor the opposition need the present-day reality – each side wants that this country and the world look at Belarus in their eyes. However, we don’t lose our faith that the majority of Belarusians and their friends abroad want to know truth about what and why happens in this country.
Every analytical material published in this issue and every table with the polling results represents a small but important part of this truth. For example, the truth is that A. Lukashenko received by 20% less of votes at the presidential election and A. Milinkevich – threefold more votes than the Central Election Commission announced. The truth is that the protesting potential in the Belarusian society is much higher than the power presents (almost a quarter of respondents took in the positive the mass actions of protest which took place in Minsk after the election) but much lower than the opposition pretends to say (over 55% of respondents took these actions in the negative.) The truth is that socio-economic situation in the country have really stabilized over lately (about two thirds of respondents think that their welfare hasn’t changed while the number of those who say that it has improved is twice as much as the number of those who stick to the opposite viewpoint). Yet, this stability is fragile and unsafe. Thus, over 80% of Belarusians polled during victorious reports of the authorities about elimination of the most negative consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe feel concern and anxiety about this aftermath while fewer than 18% are totally satisfied with how the authorities carry out the post-disaster cleanup. Of course, Gazprom’s intention (read: the Kremlin’s) to rise prices for gas transported in Belarus has become the most important factor of country’s potential destabilizing. Unlike the official propaganda soothing the population with promises “to come to an agreement with Union partners,” over 60% of respondents consider that Belarus will have to buy gas at the world market prices and nearly 43% think that if this happens, “the Belarusian economy will collapse.”
The other important changes in mass mentality are taking place at the “Western front.” On the one hand, relative socio-economic stability combined with anti-Western propaganda which is getting progressively more aggressive takes to weakening of pro-European moods and revives half-forgotten phobias of the cold war times. On the other hand, the majority of respondents is convinced that people live better in the EU countries rather than in Belarus and they don’t believe in “plotting of the West against Belarus.” In addition, over 42% of respondents think that the EU decision about freezing bank accounts of top Belarusian officials including the president is fair (only 34.5% of officials considered it unfair). These are new alternative sources of information which also contribute to these changes. Thus, about half of Belarusians watch Western TV channels: some – regular Polish channel as well as several more channels broadcast by the satellite TV, the other – Western TV programs on the cable and EuroNews via the satcom antenna. Approximately 10% of Belarusians receive at least one of the radio stations which recently started broadcasting to Belarus from the EU countries. If we add up Radio Liberty, BBC, Voice of America and some other radio stations which broadcast to Belarus for a long time already, the general number of Western radio audience will increase to at least 15%.
The second round-table discussion held in May in Vitebsk by the group of Prof. Manaev (the first one was held in December in Brest) was given to the problems of Europe’s and Russia’s attitude to Belarus. You may find many interesting information and analytics in the materials on the round table discussion prepared by Minsk and regional experts as well as by public leaders that we publish in this issue.
Since many of our readers don’t share our viewpoints or even stick to the opposite ones, we, as usual, present sociological data, i.e. the so-called count-up tables, in the light of basic socio-demographic characteristics as well as the trends of change in Belarusian public opinion.
In view of the circumstances outlined above, it was pretty hard to find a hero for our “Free Forum” column which is normally given to experts and leaders well known in this country and abroad not only due to their activity but as well due to their ability to make thorough and unbiased analysis. We hope that you will find the opinion of Young Front founder Pavel Severinets, who is now serving his two-year term of corrective labor in a godforsaken village of the Vitebsk region, on the prospects of Belarus after the presidential election helpful and interesting.
This time our “Bookshelf” is given to the noted publicist K. Skuratovich who presents the book of his colleague A. Tomkovich “Life Stories” unique even for Belarusian non-state editions. We trust that many readers will see the characters of this book from a new perspective.
As usual, we are grateful to all the readers for their feedback and comments. To tell about the results of our communication, we would need to make a separate issue comprising reviews and remarks of our readers which we received for the years of work. These are not only assessment of the materials of the bulletin but very many interesting facts and opinions as well. Unfortunately, organizational and technical possibilities of the IISEPS, especially following forced emigration into Lithuania and unceasing pressure of the Belarusian authorities, don’t let us do this. Perhaps, the situation will change by the time of our 50th issue and we will be able to communicate with you in libraries and conference halls and not by means of email or the Internet only.