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THE PUBLIC ATTITUDE TOWARDS THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

The survey data shows that the absolute majority of adult population (86.8%) is going to take part in the presidential election (see Table 1). In April the figure was only 70.3%. That means the interest in the election is growing.

Table 1. Distribution of answers to the question: “Are you going to take part in the upcoming presidential election?”

* Options “Find it difficult to answer” and “No answer” are excluded here and in most cases below

We could also note that the number of those, who give a positive or a negative answer to the question about satisfaction with A. Lukashenko’s seven-year ruling, is decreasing (see Table 2). Moreover, the ratio of these answers remains unchanged – approximately 1:8 in favor of those dissatisfied. However, the number of those who have no definite answer is going up (almost a 5% rise if compared to the April survey). The June poll showed that today the number of satisfied to a certain degree (47.9%) is almost equal to the number of those dissatisfied to a certain degree (47.7%). So, concerning attitude towards A. Lukashenko the society is split almost fifty-fifty.

Table 2. Dynamics of distribution of answers to the question: “Are you satisfied with A. Lukashenko’s ruling?”, %

A similar split (in favor of negative assessment) is seen when respondents are asked to answer a question about abilities of the present authorities to improve living standards – 36.1% (believe it is possible), 44.2% (say it is impossible).

The above tendency found further proofs in the ratio of those who want to see A. Lukashenko the president for another term (see Table 3). As one could see, their number has increased 4.6 points since April. Whereas the number of opponents of this idea has eased down 2.4 points. As a result, active society is split fifty-fifty in this respect. All these changes reflect current moods of electorate, since they are spotted even before a large-scale campaigning is on.

Table  3. Dynamics of distribution of answers to the question: “Would you like A. Lukashenko to be the president for another term?”, %

Dynamics of the open rating (Table 4) show a slump in A. Lukashenko’s support. However, if compared to the previous survey, the majority of his competitors also suffered a certain loss. In particular, M. Chigir’s rating fell almost twofold (from 6.6% to 3.5%). Only S. Domash’s open rating crept up 0.4 points and exceeded the margin of error. But more than 52% of respondents declined to give a definite answer to this question.

Table  4. Dynamics of distribution of answers to the question: “If the presidential election were to take place tomorrow, for whom would you vote?”, % (open question)

* Names of those politicians who received more than 0.5% of votes are included

Only 27% of respondents are absolutely sure they would vote for a candidate mentioned in the open rating. Other respondents have not taken their decision yet, or say that they could change their mind (see Table 5).

Table  5. Distribution of answers to the question about voters’ confidence in voting for a candidate indicated in the open rating

We receive different results when respondents determine a representative of a social-political group, whom they would like to see the president. In this case attitude towards personality of this or that politician is eliminated and respondents have the possibility to choose a nameless representative of that society group, with which they associate prospects for achieving their interests. In this case many of those, who did not support concrete contenders in the open rating, voted differently (see Table 6). Although A. Lukashenko retains his advantage over competitors, it is not so large. It is also noteworthy that the number of undetermined answers dropped by one third. Therefore, if in the open rating all A. Lukashenko’s competitors received 11.6% of votes altogether (52.1% – undetermined respondents), while answering the question of Table 6 they have 28.8% (34.5% – undetermined respondents). At the same time, these results indicate that A. Lukashenko’s opponents have so far failed to consolidate regarding a concrete contender and many of them are still awaiting a new figure, more “deserving” their support.

Table  6. Distribution of answers to the question: “Whom would you like to see the president of Belarus?”

However, at the presidential election voters would have to choose a concrete candidate, and make it on their own. Table 7 demonstrates that almost two thirds of voters (62.2%) are aware of A. Lukashenko’s intention to run for presidency again. But they know much less about plans of M. Chigir, V. Goncharik, Z. Poznyak and S. Domash (the survey was conducted mainly before initiative groups filed registration applications). And even less about intentions of other contenders. Only this fact reveals unequal start conditions and A. Lukashenko’s advantage due to an anti-constitutional monopoly of state-run mass media.

Table  7. Distribution of answers to the question: “Could name politicians who are going to run for presidency this year?” (more than one answer is possible)

* Names of politicians who received more than 3% of votes are included

Let’s consider data, which allows to assess current chances of major contenders for presidency. So, Table 8 shows that A. Lukashenko, N. Masherova, M. Chigir and S. Domash enjoy the widest support of Belarusian voters. But all of them, except for S. Domash, have suffered a loss of trust since the previous poll.

Table 8. Distribution of answers to the question: “Whom of the below mentioned politicians do you trust most of all?”, % (more than one answer is possible)

* Names of politicians who received more that 3% of votes in the previous poll are included
** This name was not offered in the given poll

Table 9 reveals that Belarus’s population likes most of all A. Lukashenko, N. Masherova, M. Chigir, S. Domash and V. Goncharik, dislikes most of all – Z. Poznyak, A. Lukashenko and M. Chigir. The degree of positive and negative attitude towards other politicians is much lower. Since the latest survey only A. Lukashenko, S. Domash and S. Kalyakin saw a rise in positive assessment. As for negative assessment, only S. Gaidukevich and A. Yaroshuk experienced an insignificant drop. Other politicians gained in this respect.

Table 9. Distribution of answers to the question: “Whom of well-known politicians do you like or dislike?”, % (closed question)

Variant of answer

Like

Dislike

Undetermined

Prognosis

04’01

06’01

04’01

06’01

04’01

06’01

04’01

06’01

N. Masherova

–*

21.6

–*

14.7

–*

63.7

–*

59.5

A. Lukashenko

39.8

42.4

34.4

34.7

25.8

22.9

53.6

55.0

S. Domash

9.8

12.5

17.2

17.2

73.0

70.3

36.3

42.1

M. Chigir

21.2

18.9

29.7

32.7

49.1

48.4

41.7

36.6

V. Goncharik

12.1

11.1

22.9

23.5

65.0

65.4

34.6

32.1

Y. Kryzhanovsky

9.7

6.9

13.7

17.2

76.2

75.9

41.3

28.6

P. Kozlovsky

7.0

5.5

16.4

19.2

76.6

75.3

29.9

22.3

S. Gaidukevich

5.0

4.6

21.2

20.4

73.9

75.0

19.1

18.4

A. Yaroshuk

3.9

2.1

14.0

13.6

82.1

84.3

21.8

13.4

S. Kalyakin

3.6

5.1

20.1

20.5

76.3

74.4

15.2

9.9

L. Sinitsyn

3.4

1.6

14.4

14.5

82.2

83.9

19.1

9.9

Z. Poznyak

7.6

5.7

52.2

56.9

40.2

37.4

12.7

9.1

* The given name was not offered in this poll

Clearly, many respondents failed to provide a definite answer with regard to some politicians. For the number of such voters see line “Not determined”, which includes “Do not know such politician”, “Find it difficult to answer” and “No answer”. The number of answers in this line – is the potential, which could be turned in favor of a certain candidate, or against him/her. If we divide those undetermined pro-rate the present indexes of attitude towards certain politicians, the maximum possible positive attitude of respondents towards each name in the list would be stated in line “Prognosis”. In this respect N. Masherova has the best prospects, and she beats the closest competitor – A. Lukashenko – by 4.5%. Then follow S. Domash, M. Chigir and V. Goncharik. Undoubtedly, by the election date a real maximum of positive attitude could be different, and such figures must be treated with caution.

As we could see from Table 10, the closed positive rating of major contenders is lead by A. Lukashenko (43.8%), other contenders are lagging far behind (in April – 39.8%). The closest of them – M. Chigir (17.1%), is behind 2.5fold. S. Domash and V. Goncharik are further behind. But if M. Chigir’s rating fell, S. Domash and V. Goncharik enjoyed a certain rise, especially S. Domash – by 1.5fold.

Table  10. Dynamics of distribution of answers to the question about whom of well-known politicians Belarus’s voters are ready to vote for, and for whom they would vote under no circumstances, % (closed question)

Variant of answer

Would vote

Would not vote

Undetermined

Prognosis

04’01

06’01

04’01

06’01

04’01

06’01

04’01

06’01

A. Lukashenko

39.8

43.8

36.4

34.0

23.8

22.2

52.2

56.3

N. Masherova

–*

17.0

–*

39.9

–*

43.1

–*

29.9

M. Chigir

17.9

17.1

45.1

45.0

37.0

37.9

28.4

27.5

S. Domash

8.1

12.0

46.2

44.6

45.7

43.4

14.6

21.2

V. Goncharik

10.1

10.3

45.2

48.0

44.7

41.7

18.3

17.7

P. Kozlovsky

4.8

6.1

48.8

47.4

46.4

46.5

9.0

11.4

S. Kalyakin

2.8

4.3

51.7

49.2

45.5

46.5

5.1

8.0

Y. Kryzhanovsky

4.3

4.1

47.7

50.0

48.0

45.9

8.3

7.6

S. Gaidukevich

4.0

4.2

50.6

52.1

45.4

43.7

7.3

7.5

Z. Poznyak

6.3

5.0

59.7

62.7

34.0

32.3

9.5

7.4

A. Yaroshuk

2.6

2.3

49.2

49.2

48.2

48.5

5.0

4.5

L. Sinitsyn

2.0

1.9

50.3

49.9

47.7

48.2

3.8

3.7

* The given name was not offered in this poll

A. Lukashenko tops the closed negative rating as well, he lost 2.4 points (see Table 10). S. Domash and M. Chigir improved their positions a little, and are placed third and fourth. But all these changes remain within the margin of error.

It is worth mentioning that in the June ratings of Belarusian politicians N. Masherova’s position improved. In the open rating (see Table 4) she was placed fourth, in the closed positive rating – third, in the negative rating – she lost to A. Lukashenko several points.

If we divide undetermined answers of the closed rating pro-rate current assessments, i.e. using the method applied to Table 14, we get the maximum possible closed positive ratings of each contender (line “Prognosis” of Table 10). A. Lukashenko tops the list in this respect, his positions became even stronger. N. Masherova’s figures are twofold lower, and she goes second. Then follow M. Chigir, S. Domash and V. Goncharik. But while M. Chigir and V. Goncharik lost some points, S. Domash’s rating jumped 1.5fold. Other politicians have few prospects.

We shall underscore one more time that by the election date a real maximum of closed rating could be different, and such figures must be treated as a guide to action, rather than a sentence.

An interesting conclusion could be drawn from respondents’ answers while choosing a preferable candidate from given pairs of contenders.

As one could notice, under the most favorable conditions, when A. Luakshenko’s competitors receive all votes of undetermined respondents, M. Chigir would beat him by 2.1%, with S. Domash lagging behind only by 0.7%, P. Kozlovsky – by 4.5%, V. Goncharik – by 6.5%, S. Kalyakin – by 7%.

Table 11 provides a respondents’ prognosis regarding how voters would cast their votes at the presidential election. As we see, the majority of respondents (61.2%) has no doubt that A. Lukashenko would win. Less than 10% believe that someone form the coalition of democratic candidates might win. If we compare Tables 11 and 16, we would clearly see the “silence spiral”, which reflects diffidence of democratic electorate and its uncertainty about possibility to do something about falsification of election returns by the authorities. When compared to the previous survey, the “silence spiral” is now more “twisted”, which means more problems for A. Lukashenko’s opponents.

Table  11. Distribution of answers to the question: “For whom, do you think, the majority of voters would cast their votes at the presidential election?”

Table 12 proves the above statement. It demonstrates this diffidence of democrats. Only 26.6% of voters are confident that there is no worthy alternative to A. Lukashenko, whereas 61.5% have an opposite opinion. However, only 12.1% of voters know such worthy candidate. The rest could not do that. Obviously, within several weeks left before the election and in such severe competition changing the situation seems rather difficult. But otherwise victory is impossible.

Table 12. Distribution of answers to the question: “A. Lukashenko has been governing Belarus for 7 years already. Some people say there is no worthy substitute to him and he shall remain the president for 5 years more. What do you think about it?”

Table 13 shows that almost 40% of voters do not believe in honesty and impartiality of the Central Election Commission, which increases their uncertainty. Almost three fourth of voters would trust election returns more, if there were independent observers (Table 14). That means that all attempts by authorities to depict observers as “armed militants”, who are lead by General M. Grib, saw no support from voters. Thus, democrats face a very difficult task: to convince voters that observers from the Communist Party of Belarus, the Belarusian Patriotic Union of Youth, the Union of Officers, etc., as well as “friends” from Russia’s State Duma, whom Belarus’s authorities are trying to present as independent observers, should not be considered impartial and unbiased.

Table  13. Distribution of answers to the question: “Do you believe that the Central Election Commission would honestly and accurately count votes at the presidential election?”

Table 14. Distribution of answers to the question: “Would you trust election returns more if there were independent observers?”

Table 15 reveals that more than one third of voters think that the upcoming election would be neither free, nor fair. However, assuming that the authorities falsify election results, only 10.2% are going to protest it (see Table 16). Supposing that all those who gave no definite answer to this question join “protesters”, the overwhelming majority (68.6%) is likely to remain silent about infringement upon their civil rights and arbitrariness of the authorities. It seems that the authorities hope to take advantage of such “tolerance” of Belarus’s population with undue familiarity.

Table  15. Distribution of answers to the question: “Will the 2001 presidential election be free and fair?”

Table 16. Distribution of answers to the question: “If you believe that election results are falsified, what would you do?”

Thus, the analysis shows that people’s intention to take part in the presidential election is increasing. As for attitude towards A. Lukashenko – Belarus’s voters split almost fifty-fifty, some want to see him reelected, other don’t. The beginning of the presidential election proves that A. Lukashenko’s electoral potential remain rather high, whereas his democratic competitors are gaining slowly in this respect. The majority of protest electorate could not personify their choice yet, they are awaiting a “new” candidature. In A. Lukashenko’s electoral field a serious competitor appeared – N. Masherova, who took part of his electorate, and enjoys support of those who previously could not make their choice. The notorious “silence spiral” is getting more “twisted”, which means that contenders shall intensify their propaganda and campaigning in order to overcome protest electorate’s diffidence. Special efforts must be taken to prepare an independent observance at the election and denounce attempts by authorities to present their “observers” as independent monitors.