1. Election is valid

Sociological surveys on problems of the parliamentary election were conducted both before and after the first round, which took place on October 15 of 2000. Therefore, we could talk about its results and possible outcomes with confidence. The most important result: in line with the results of the nationwide opinion poll, some 58.8% of the adult population took part in the election (and only one third of surveyed leaders and experts – but what elite decides in our country?…), and three control questions confirm credibility of this figure. A more detailed analysis showed that in Minsk, regional centers and large cities (with population over 50.000), where more than half of the country’s population lives, the number of those who voted and who did not levels at 50%, whereas in small cities, where another half of the population lives, 69% and 31%, correspondingly. As it is known, independent monitoring (on which results the opposition made its conclusions) was conducted in 43 constituencies – it was mainly organized in the first group of settlements. The results of this monitoring were extrapolated on all 110 constituencies, which resulted in distortion of the real voting picture.
We shall remind that according to the results of a previous nationwide survey carried out three weeks before the election, 59% of respondents expressed intention of participating in the parliamentary election (it seems that the August tendency of diminishing readiness to take part in the parliamentary election was not confirmed: on the contrary, a previous growth tendency was seen, mostly due to those who hesitated). Our preliminary conclusion was that “though an absolute prognosis (i.e. defining the number of those who would come to the polls) is impossible because of great number of the vacillatory, it can be assumed with high probability that the election would be valid regardless of not meeting demands of OSCE and boycott declared by the opposition”. (See Table 1-5).

Table 1. Distribution of answers to the question: “Parliamentary election will take place in the fall of 2000. Are you going to participate in it?”, %

Table 2. Distribution of answers to the question: “If authorities do not fulfil the demands, put forth by the opposition and OSCE, will you participate in the parliamentary election in the fall of 2000?”, %

Table 3. Distribution of answers to the question: “If the opposition decides to boycott (i.e. not to take part) the parliamentary election because Belarus’s authorities have not fulfilled the demands of the opposition and OSCE, what would be your attitude towards this boycott?”, %

Table 4. Distribution of answers to the question: “If prior to the parliamentary election international community declare it does not recognize its results because of the failure to fulfill the demands of the opposition and OSCE, will you participate in the election?”, %

Table 5. Social types depending on attitude towards the parliamentary election of 2000, %

As we could see, our latest election figures (considering the margin of error) almost coincide with official results – 61%. That means that the election to the House of Representatives is valid, and that figures of 40%-45% announced by the opposition (and a logical conclusion – “People supported us!”), do not correspond to the reality. Naturally, this fact does not change political assessment of the election. Independent observers documented more than 5.000 violations of all sorts (See M. Grib’s article “Black Technologies” recently published in Narodnaya Gazeta), including coercion of citizens to vote in favor of authorities’ candidates, undoubtedly, show that the election was neither free, nor fair. Therefore illegitimacy of the new parliament causes no doubts, and is unlikely to be recognized by the international community. What really raises doubts is perhaps stubborn unwillingness of “strong opposition” (i.e. those who boycotted the election, and condemned colleagues that participated in the election, and suggested mass protest actions as an alternative) to develop strategy and tactics depending on practical, but not invented (desired) reality.

2. Attitude towards boycott campaign

Only 9.5% of respondents said that failure to fulfill the demands of the opposition and OSCE affected their decision to participate in the parliamentary election, and in this respect only 7.5% pointed at the opposition’s decision to boycott the election. To what opponents of the boycott would say: even though there are a few such people, they are our strong supporters, and at least we managed to persuade them. However, a more detailed analysis shows that this statement does not correspond to the reality. So, answering the direct question: “If you did not participate in the October 15 election, what was the reason?” only 2.9% said they “supported the boycott announced by opposition parties” (compare: 9.2% said they could not get to the polling station because they were busy”). Only 14.7% of those who did not take part in the election said that the failure to fulfill the demands of the opposition and OSCE affected their decision. That means that the majority of the electorate, which refused to poll, motivated their decision not by solidarity with the opposition, but by other reasons: for example, disappointment with parliamentary system (9.5% said “deputies are unlikely to stand for my interests”, the same number of people “do not trust any of the candidates”), or unbelief in progressive changes. Answers to the direct question about assessment of the boycott campaign (asked in November) leave no doubts about its results (see Table 6).

Table 6. Distribution of answers to the question: “A significant part of the opposition actively boycotted the parliamentary election, i.e. it called voters no to go to the polling stations. How do you assess the results of this campaign?”

Table 7. Distribution of answers to the question: “Shall voters, in your opinion, have the right to boycott election, if they are not satisfied, for example, with conditions of its holding or registered candidates?”

That means that negative or indifferent attitude of the majority of voters to the boycott campaign is explained first of all by its non-cogent character (for many irrelevant) in the specific political situation.
De facto non-recognition of the newly elected House of Representatives by the international community is based not so much on the boycott declaration, as on testimonies collected by “screened” candidates and independent observers (57.2% of those who participated in the election said there were observers at their polling stations) – i.e. by representatives of political, civic and social opposition, who took an active part in the election process.
Basically, that was not the boycott campaign, but evidence and personal experience of pollers why public did not consider the election as democratic, corresponding to international standards (see Table 8-10).

Table 8. Distribution of answers to the question: “After the first round of the parliamentary election the opposition and OSCE technical mission claimed that this election could not be recognized as democratic. What do you think in this respect?”

Table 9. Distribution of answers to the question: “The opposition asserts that during the parliamentary election numerous law violations took place (voting for other people, giving out voting bulletins with no passport at sight, coercion of voters to take part in early election, cutting down voters’ lists, etc.). Do you agree with this statement?”

Table 10. Distribution of answers to the question: “If you believe that there were violations during the parliamentary election, which violations did you spot?”

But only testimonies of participants of the election process and personal experience of voters affected assessment of the parliamentary election. Almost openly the authorities ignored OSCE’s demands for staging a free and fair election. For example, a contents-analysis of publications about the parliamentary election from state-run and independent press for the period of June-August of 2000, carried out by IISEPS within the framework of this project (173 publications were analyzed: 55% – Belorusskaya Delovaya Gazeta, 15% – Sovetskaya Belorussia, 30% – regional state-run newspapers revealed the following picture). Almost half of BDG publications described positions of different political parties – major subjects of the election process, 6.2% – position of authorities. On the contrary, one third of SB publications were dedicated to position of authorities, with political parties enjoying a mere 12%. This ratio is even more revealing in regional state-run publications: 43.1% and 2%, correspondingly. An analysis of state-run and independent press’s attitude towards four demands set forth by OSCE reveals a more surprising picture! The demand about providing the opposition with access to state-run mass media is mentioned in 13.4% of BDG publications, the same number of publications were dedicated to the demand to stop harassment of people for their political views, the demand to change the Electoral Code, and the demand to widen powers of the parliament. Some 12% of SB publications give reference to the demand to change the Electoral Code (the only demand where authorities made some concessions), the other demands were not mentioned at all. There was not a single reference to OSCE’s demands in regional press (only the publications that dealt with the parliamentary election were analyzed). The whole international community was watching fulfillment of OSCE’s demands, and the failure to do so resulted in non-recognition of the newly elected parliament!

3. Who won?

A preliminary analysis (i.e. carried out before the election) of political preferences of voters, who expressed intention of taking part in the parliamentary election, and those who supported the boycott, showed that first of all convinced supporters of A. Lukashenko and integration with Russia dominate the group of supporters of the election, second, a minority of convinced opponents of A. Lukashenko and integration with Russia actively supported the election boycott (see Table 11).

Table 11. Attitude towards participation in the parliamentary election depending on attitude towards A. Lukashenko and integration with Russia*, %

Social types
Attitude towards the parliamentary election of 2000
Convinced supporters (30.0)
Vacillators majority (66.5)
Convinced opponents (3.5)
Attitude towards A. Lukashenko
Convinced supporters (16.0)
Vacillators majority (55.0)
Convinced opponents (29.0)
Attitude towards integration
Convinced supporters (20.9)
Vacillators majority (60.4)
Convinced opponents (18.7)

* To read horizontally

A comparative analysis (carried out after the election) of groups of those, who participated in the October election and who did not, gives more important information for consideration and development of further strategy (see Table 12).

Table 12. Comparative characteristic of groups that participated and did not participate in the parliamentary election, %*

Social-economic and political directions
Participated in the election (58.8)
Did not participate in the election (39.4)
Believe that responsibility for deterioration of economic situation lies on:
– president
– mafia
Prefer economy:
– market economy with insignificant state control
– planned economy
More efficient form of ownership:
– state
– private
Would like to work for:
– a state company
– a private company
Satisfied with A. Lukasehkno’s six-year ruling:
– rather satisfied
– partially satisfied, partially not satisfied
– rather not satisfied
Attitude towards A. Lukashenko and his course:**
– convinced supporters
– vacillatory majority
– convinced opponents
At a hypothetical referendum on Belarus and Russian unification would vote:
– for unification
– against unification
If authorities do not people’s requirements, some believe that they must be replaced:
– by means of another election
– by means of a referendum on distrust to authorities and early election
– mass non-violent actions (rallies, demonstrations, etc.)
– mass strikes

* To read vertically. The sum of answers is not always equal to 100%, because interim answers are omitted
**Convinced supporters – those who trust A. Lukashenko, consider him an ideal politician and are ready to vote for him at the presidential election in Belarus, and presidential election of Belarus-Russia Union. Convinced opponents are those who gave opposite answers

Obviously, those who participated in the election are mostly conservative-minded, whereas those who did not – are democratic-minded citizens of Belarus. At the same time, there were many democratic-minded people in the first group, and conservative-minded people – in the second group. Many of those who cast their votes support the demands of the opposition and OSCE (including the demand about a free and fair election – almost 54%!). The ratio of strong supporters and opponents of A. Lukashenko and his course is especially revealing: almost 22% of those who went to the polls are his convinced opponents, and about 8% of those who did not vote – are his convinced supporters. As we could see, this is not a “mirror” distribution. Figures of the last section of the table are even more expressive: those who did not take part in the October election still prefer election and referendum to mass protest actions!
The parliamentary election also showed limits within which amendments to the Electoral Code could be achieved with public support. For example, one of such amendments suggested by the opposition is to lower voters’ turnout rate from 50% to 25%. The survey revealed that only 13.8% of voters support this demand yet.
But the demand to include representatives of all participants of the election with casting vote enjoys support among 38.2% of voters, since it is considered as a “socially fair” demand.
But, finally, who won and who lost the parliamentary election? Could we say that authorities lost? No – regardless of the boycott voters’ turnout was rather high (59%, of course, not 70% promised by A. Lukashenko, or 45% declared by the opposition). Cold we assert that “strong opposition” lost? No, because the newly elected parliament is not recognized, and the Supreme Council is still considered the only legitimate body. Both players achieved their desired goals in part. The loser is a part of Belarusian society (including social and civic opposition), which is looking for democratic changes, but, at the same time, does not accept ways out offered by “strong opposition”, and it remains out of politics. Belarus’s political landscape does not much look like European one.
It is widely known that lessons are being learnt to avert continuation of a hard past in the future, rather to change it. Results of the presidential race, which, as a matter of fact, has already begun, would depend on who could “face the reality” first and act in line with this reality, but not with one’s ideas about it.
Summing it up, it is noteworthy that first, according to sociological surveys, the parliamentary election is valid. That means that the reality does not correspond to beliefs of some opposition leaders.
Second, assertions by the majority of opposition leaders about expediency and efficiency of the parliamentary election boycott campaign are exaggerated. That means that the opposition’s strategy at the presidential election shall under no circumstances include a boycott possibility. Declaring boycott to the presidential election (for example, in unfavorable situation) the opposition may, of course, get some tactical advantage (for example, it could maintain the West’s support), but it is likely to lose strategically – the majority of Belarusians would become disappointed in its ability to political struggle.
Third, statements of authorities about a democratic nature of the election, its correspondence to international standards are far from the reality – not only from the point of view of elite, OSCE and independent observers – but also in opinion of the majority of Belarusians. That means that the resource of social-psychological support of the present authorities is not so vast, as authorities are trying to show.
Fourth, coming up with demands to introduce amendments to the Electoral Code in line with international norms the opposition shall not only proceed from these norms and look for support in the West, but also from the fact how these norms are perceived in society and look for public support. That means that along with putting forth some demands to authorities and appealing to international community it is necessary to constantly carry out informative-educational work in Belarus’s society.
Fifth, both authorities and political opposition achieved in part their desired goals at the parliamentary election. The loser is a part of Belarusian society (including social and civic opposition), which is looking for democratic changes, but, at the same time, does not accept decisions offered by “strong opposition”, and it remains out of politics. If this status-quo remains in place during the presidential campaign chances for democratic changes would be reduced to zero. That means that using the opportunity of the presidential campaign political opposition shall look for efficient cooperation with civic and social opposition – to form a wide civic coalition “For Changes” which is to become a social base for a democratic candidate for presidency.