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AGAIN ABOUT THE TURNOUT

The turnout issue was the focus of the election campaign of the majority of opposition parties. In the opinion of party activists, the low turnout was supposed to testify to a new quality of Belarusian society which it had acquired after the shock of 2011. Naturally the subject of refusal to implement the “social contract” (loyalty in exchange for an income growth) was broached again. A mass boycott of the elections was to serve as an indicator of such a refusal.

In this connection we would like to remind the optimists registering on a regular basis the transition of quantitative changes in the economy into a new social quality that the main property of any culture consists in resistance to changes. Social systems are rather inert already because their main institution – the man – is inert. Yes, mood swings are peculiar to him, which is regularly registered in the course of public opinion polls. To receive evidence that it is really so, it is enough to look at the amplitude of the social indices for the last two years. However, the man is not able to change his value and basic mindset system like a woman changes clothes. Hence one should not mistake the wish for reality.

It should not be forgotten that for the absolute majority the past year became a year of a real income growth. If the authorities did breach the social contract in 2011, then in 2012 they rehabilitated themselves in this respect.

The December opinion poll confirmed again that the turnout in the parliamentary elections had been over 60% (Pict. 1). A slight decrease three months after the voting should not surprise. A similar decrease was registered in 2008, too. Once again an appreciable redistribution of votes among those who had voted early and on the polling day occurred, just as it had happened four years before.

The number of respondents who said they had boycotted the elections remained unchanged. However, is 10% of the electoral roll a lot or little? Opposition politicians answer this question depending on their attitude to the boycott. If one looks at the result of the boycott not in the light of political commitment, then 10% of the electoral roll means that almost every third person (29.2%) among opponents of the authorities declared his/her boycott of the elections, and among supporters of the authorities – only 4% of respondents. On the whole, electoral activity of the authorities’ opponents proved to be 26.2 points lower than electoral activity of their supporters – 42.6% vs. 69.2%.

For three months that passed since the parliamentary elections assessments of their freedom and justice level have noticeably changed (Pict. 2). At that the negative and positive assessments have almost matched. If one compares the assessments of December 2012 with the assessments of December 2008, then changes will become especially tangible. It is unlikely that they reflect real change in the quality of the election process. The reason for the change should be looked for in the decrease of the level of the population’s trust in A. Lukashenko and state institutions in general (if in November 2008 the trust rating of the CEC made up 44.6%, and the distrust rating – 36.6%, then in December 2012 – 32.9% and 52.5% respectively).

Besides subjective reasons which make party activists assess the turnout received in the course of opinion polls skeptically, an objective reason should be mentioned as well. One of the most popular topics in the independent, as well as in the state mass media, is the topic of Belarusians’ labor migration. Although different figures are being named, the majority of them go into the range from 600 thousand to 1 million people. If one takes into account the electoral roll equaling 7 million people, then registration of the turnout by the observers will yield the result 9-14% lower in comparison with opinion polls, as the latter cover respondents on the territory of the country only, and opinion of labor migrants is naturally not taken into consideration in their results.