«

»

ELECTIONS-2000: BOYCOTT OR PARTICIPATION?

A decision, whether to take part in the elections or boycott them primarily depends on the condition of the election race and on the chances of the opposition. First, we need to consider the fact, that during the last six moths Belarusian people at large have been showing a high (although it constantly decreases) readiness to vote in the elections. We cannot ignore electoral expectations, when they are so high. Therefore, a decision to boycott the elections must be well motivated and its meaning and the reasons behind it must be publicized as widely as possible.

The overwhelming majority of respondents are certain that the rules of the elections must be set with the participation of opposition, because one cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that it exists in this country. A large part of the population supports the four conditions, which were set by the opposition and supported by the OSCE, and which must be met so that the elections may be deemed fair and free (Table 1). The number of respondents, who said that all these conditions must be met is at a stable high level (Table 2). This support was the opposition’s trump card in its struggle to create acceptable conditions for the voting, and then became a hub for the boycott theory.

Table 1. Attitude to conditions, set out by the opposition and the OSCE, %

Conditions
I support them
I do not support them
NA
06’00
07’00
08’00
06’00
07’00
08’00
06’00
07’00
08’00
Grant the opposition access to state-run mass media
44.6
46.1
44.0
22.4
26.8
23.2
33.0
27.1
32.8
Stop oppression of people, who disagree with the current political course
59.1
59.5
58.7
11.1
11.3
11.6
29.8
29.2
28.8
Introduce changes to the Election Code, which would guarantee free and fair elections
62.0
65.1
66.5
9.1
9.4
6.9
28.9
25.5
26.6
Change the mandate of parliament, so that the laws, which it adopts, would become compulsory for all authorities
55.5
61.8
62.3
8.5
8.3
6.5
36.0
29.9
31.2

Table 2. Structure of the electorate by attitude to meeting conditions set out by the opposition and the OSCE, %

 

However, according to Table 3, the fact that some respondents support the conditions does not automatically mean that they are going to support the boycott. Around 30% of supporters said they were going to vote not only if the conditions are not met, but even if the international community says that it is not going to recognize the results of the elections because the conditions were not met before the elections take place. The idea to boycott the elections met an ambiguous response, even among the voiced supporters of the conditions.

Table 3. Attitude to participation in the elections depending on attitude to the conditions of the opposition and the OSCE, %

Answer
Staunch supporters (34.6)
The hesitant/NA (61.3)
Attitude to participation in the elections:
Yes, I will take part in the elections (53.7)
44.6
57.5
I will make my decision depending on the situation (15.4)
24.5
10.8
I will not vote (12.2)
12.2
12.4
NA (18.7)
18.7
19.3
Attitude to participation in the elections if the authorities do not meet the conditions:
Yes, I will take part in the elections (44.3)
36.6
47.0
I will not vote (17.5)
26.5
13.0
NA/other (37.5)
36.9
40.0
Attitude to the opposition boycott of the elections, because the conditions were not met:
I will support the boycott (13.7)
29.3
5.4
I will not support the boycott(42.3)
31.5
46.6
NA/other (44.0)
39.2
48.0
Attitude to participation in the elections if the international community says it is not going to recognize their results because the conditions were not met before the elections are actually held:
I will take part in the elections (39.1)
29.6
42.7
I will not participate in the elections (18.2)
29.3
12.6
NA/other (43.7)
41.1
44.7
We need to mention, that over 30% of supporters have not made a final decision yet about their possible participation in the elections if the conditions are not met, or about their participation in the boycott for that reason. We need to remember that this information was collected in August, i.e. before the authorities launched a large-scale aggressive campaign in support of the elections. It is obvious that this campaign will make some of the hesitant cast their votes.

Table 4. Attitude to parliamentary elections depending on the attitude to meeting the conditions of the opposition and the OSCE, %

Structure of the electorate
Attitude to parliamentary elections
supporters (25.7)
opponents (2.1)
the waiting (7.3)
the hesitant (64.9)
Think the conditions must be met (34.6)
15.8
5.3
8.9
70.8
Hesitate/NA (61.3)
29.2
0.4
6.7
63.6
Think the conditions must not be met (4.1)
57.2
1.7
7.3
3.4

* The table is read horizontally

However, it will be the opinion of the hesitant majority, which will lead to the boycott’s success or defeat in the long run. Table 3 shows that the majority does not have a lot of optimism about the boycott. We need to remind you again that the information was collected before the authorities began an active advertising campaign of the elections, which is primarily aimed at the people, who have not made their minds yet. Almost 75% of the voiced supporters of the conditions of the opposition and the OSCE still hesitate, while there are almost three times as many supporters of the parliamentary elections, as there are their opponents (Table 4).