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ELECTIONS-2000: SITUATION BECOMES HEATED

The results of the opinion polls clearly indicate that there is lower readiness among respondents to take part in the parliamentary elections (Tables 1-4). More specifically, this readiness increased during the last few months, and now the trend is reverse. It is clear, however, that the respondents, who were ready to go and cast their votes in the past and have now changed their mind, did not decide that they should not vote at all (because the number of opponents of the elections does not grow). Rather, they are hesitant. The situation, when the respondents answer “yes” to one question regarding their readiness to elections, and give a “no” answer to the others, is yet another indicator of the confusion, which characterizes today’s post-communist Belarus. Much has already been said and written about it. The margin of error can be eliminated by figuring out, how many respondents correspond to “pure social types”, i.e. how many people gave similar answers to all questions regarding the elections (Table 5).
Table 1. Distribution of answers to the question about participation in the parliamentary elections in autumn 2000, %

 

* The June and July 2000 polls were conducted by IISEPS jointly with the Center for Social and Ecological Studies

Table 2. Distribution of answers to the question “If the authorities fail to meet the conditions, set out by the opposition and the OSCE, will you take part in the autumn 2000 parliamentary elections?”, %


Table 3. Distribution of answers to the question “If the opposition decides to boycott (i.e. not participate in) the parliamentary elections, because the Belarusian government failed to meet the conditions set out by the opposition and the OSCE, what will you think about that boycott?”, %

Table 4. Distribution of answers to the question “If the international community says that the results of the parliamentary elections will not be recognized before the elections take place, because the conditions of the opposition and the OSCE were not met, will you participate in the elections?”, %

Table 5. Structure of the population through their attitude to 2000 parliamentary elections, %

The social and demographic differences among these types are not important, although some of the characteristics deserve mention. For instance, there are more women than men (56.6% to 43.4%) among the voiced supporters of the elections (25.7% of respondents). Fewer women (37.9% to 62.1% men) are openly against the elections (2.1% of respondents are opponents of the elections). In the first group, there are many elderly people and in the second there are lots of people aged 30 to 40 and 50 to 60. As far as education is concerned, there is a difference only in numbers of respondents, who only have a secondary school behind them: the second group has almost 50% more of them than the first (although the numbers of people, who have not finished a secondary school or have higher education are almost identical among the opponents and supporters of the elections). If we look at the social and professional status of respondents, we may see that the first group has three times as many senior citizens than the second, and the second group has more students, schoolchildren and homemakers. Speaking about differences by region of Belarus, we need to mention that there are the most voiced supporters of the elections in the Brest region (14.5% said they support them and 4.7% said they do not) and the Gomel region (27.1% and 6.0% respectively). There are the most staunch opponents of the elections in Minsk (19.2% and 16.3% respectively), Minsk region (27.5% and 10.3%) and Grodno region (15.2% and 7.8%). Many more people live in large regional centers among the supporters of the elections (15.1% said they were ready to take part in the voting, and 2.8% said they were against it). At the same time, more people, who live in small towns, tend to dislike the elections (32.0% and 23.1% respectively). The financial well being of respondents did not seem to affect their attitude to the elections.
All these fluctuating characteristics indicate the fact, that outer, i.e. social, demographic and status characteristics do not determine people’s attitude to participation in the forthcoming parliamentary elections.
The main thing, which really affects their opinions, is their ideological and political beliefs. The indicator, which shows these beliefs most prominently, is their attitude to Alexander Lukashenko and his politics: voiced supporters of Alexander Lukashenko openly support the autumn elections (Table 6).

Table 6. Attitude to participation in parliamentary elections depending on attitude to A. Lukashenko*, %

Social types by relation to A. Lukashenko
Attitude to 2000 parliamentary elections
Staunch supporters (25.7)
Firm opponents (2.1)
The waiting part (7.3)
Hesitant majority (64.9)
Staunch supporters(13.5)
57.1
0.5
2.1
40.3
Hesitant majority(50.0)
25.8
0.6
8.0
65.6
Firm opponents (36.5)
14.1
4.9
8.1
72.9

* Should be read horizontally

However, it is clear that only an insignificantly small number of staunch opponents to A. Lukashenko and his politics are openly against voting (or openly support the boycott): the overwhelming majority of these people has not made their minds yet (it is interesting, that they hesitate even more than those, who have controversial views of A. Lukashenko).
It seems that the boycott campaign launched by a part of the opposition has some influence on people’s readiness to vote in the autumn elections. These data show that this campaign aroused doubts and hesitation among some voters, but has not made them sure yet. Perhaps, their final decision will depend on a number of factors: a clear final position of the international community (a statement, adopted during the August 30 OSCE technical conference, may have several interpretations, both in favor of the elections and against them), further measures taken by the organizers of the boycott campaign (it is not yet in full swing), counter strikes of the authorities, which may be aimed at convincing people to come and vote (a content analysis of the government media on a national and regional level showed that this campaign is only in its initial stage now), and, at last, the progress of the election race for the democrats (some of them independent candidates), who were registered (the race is only beginning). Now the elections have more supporters than opponents, but as long as two thirds of the total number of voters hesitate, no good guesses can be made.