IISEPS News, N 2 (20), 2001



Belarus: prospects in XXI century:
Results of a national public opinion poll

Open Forum:
S. Domash, member of Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Republic of Belarus, head of Grodno Regional Association “Ratusha”
It is necessary to revive sence of master

V. Dorokhov, head of Center for Documentation of IISEPS
“National and Regional Security”


Dear readers!


Our jubilee, the 20th issue of the bulletin “IISEPS News” has coincided with the moment, which is becoming determinative in further destiny of Belarus – both as society and state. What path will our country follow – the path of reforms, improvement of its citizens’ welfare, strengthening its independence, engaging in European society, or the path of further impoverishment of population, intensification of repression against those who disagree, loosing its sovereignty, complete international isolation? The majority of politicians, analysts, diplomats and common citizens believe that the choice of path would depend on the choice at the presidential election scheduled for September 9. The Central Election Commission has registered initiative groups of 22 candidates for presidency; collection of signatures has begun. It is still unclear which social and political forces these contenders represent, who of them would be registered as candidates, since game rules are constantly changing. The situation in the country is becoming more intricate and tense. It seems that in such complex situation there should be more information, which would assist people to orient themselves in this complex situation, more information in terms of number of sources, opinions, participants of public debates, etc. In fact, information is dwindling in these terms. That might result in Belarusians voting with “heart”, rather than mind.
It is clear that none of separate organizations – a political party, a labor union, an independent newspaper or a research center – is able to prevent such development of events. But by common efforts we could try to provide the society (and, fist of all, participants of the election campaign) with objective information, well-reasoned analysis, and realistic prognosis. Last year events in Yugoslavia showed that role of such efforts might be of great importance. “Overthrow of Milosevic, – Washington Post analyzed these events, – which many in Europe consider the last democratic uprising, perhaps, would enter the history as the first revolution based on public opinion polls and tested on target groups” (Washington Post, December 11, 2000). Belarusian authorities understand it, and therefore the Belarusian TV almost monthly pours out “denunciations” about us. Aside from these methods of “public debates”, which have already become habitual, some new have recently appeared – publications in independent press aimed at casting doubt on activities of independent researchers and analysts among democratic audience (for example, a recent series of scandalous articles in Narodnaya Volya). The aim of such “criticism” is simple – to neutralize mounting influence of independent research centers in the election campaign by means of preventive discredit. So that when, according to their data, rating of a democratic candidate reaches rating of the present head of state (as last year ratings of S. Milosevic and V. Kostunica), no one believes him/her.
As well as the previous issue of our bulletin, this issue is fully based on the results of the project “Belarus: prospects in the XXI century”, which is being carried out jointly with colleagues from Belarusian Think Tanks in cooperation with a wide representation of Belarus’s democratic forces. Results of monthly sociological monitoring of public opinion and opinion of elite, its comparative analysis, and “live” information, provided in the context of major social-demographic groups and trends, give, of course, not full, but quite reliable and actual picture of state of society during the run-up to the presidential election.
This time our traditional rubric “Open Forum” is given to one of the most prospective democratic candidates for presidency Semion Domash – person, who is well known both among the ruling elite (as the former governor of the Grodno Region and member of the Presidium of Belarusian Supreme Soviet), and the opposition (as the leader of public associations “Grodno Initiative” and “Regional Belarus”). But today the majority of Belarusians are more interested not in his previous merits and views, but his vision of Belarus’s future, ways to achieve it, including further consolidation of all forces advocating changes.
On the “Bookshelf” of our bulletin we present a new book, which has recently come out with the Strategy Analytical Center. It is devoted to an actual, but not much publicly discussed topic – security of Belarus in national, regional and international aspects.
We hope that materials of our jubilee issue will not only be interesting, but also useful practically, will help you make the right choice at this crucial for our country moment.