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JUNE 2016: VOTING, CARING, DISCUSSING

Voting in elections is the indisputable leader of popularity among modern types of popular political activities for Belarusians. For example, in June 2016 65.5% of respondents confirmed that they take part in elections (chart 1). According to European standards it’s a solid figure, but it’s significantly lower than the official one. Particularly, according to the CEC, turnout of presidential elections in 2015 amounted to 87.2%.

22.3% of respondents attentively followed the information on political events in June 2016. It is lower than the figure of the previous year by 12.4 points. Such a significant decrease of interest to political information is another proof of the exhaustion of mobilization effect, provoked by the events in Ukraine. For the same reason the share of respondents discussing political events with friends dropped from 44.5% down to 30.9% in a year (-13.6 points).

The habit to vote is one of the important components of Soviet legacy. That is why the older the respondents are the more actively they vote. For the outmost age groups (under 29 and after 60) the difference in June 2016 amounted to 21.8 points – 55.4% vs. 77.2%. Taking into account age structure of supporters and opponents of Alexander Lukashenko, electoral activities of the former is higher than of the latter – 71.7% vs. 59%.

As for the interest to politics (gathering information and discussing it), it is significantly higher among the head of state’s opponents – 27.4% vs. 17.8% (+9.6 points) and 33.9% vs 26.5% (+7.4 points). The reason for this is the high level of education among Lukashenko’s opponents.

The other types of political activities, requiring personal responsible actions from respondents, don’t enjoy popularity in the atomized Belarusian society.

Electoral activity of Belarusians, registered in chart 1, is confirmed by the answers to the question of chart 2. Three months prior to the voting day, slightly more than half of respondents declared their readiness to participate in elections (67.6% supporters, 41.2% opponents of Lukashenko). Every fourth respondents answered that they didn’t take the final decision yet. This group of respondents constitutes a reserve for turnout increase.

Out of three statements made by Alexander Lukashenko in relation to the parliamentary elections in September, only one (“Belarusian electoral law is not worse than in other countries where elections were accepted by the international structures”) draw agreement from more than a half of respondents (table 3). However, there is electoral law and there is a practice of applying it, and for the last two decades this practice is connected to the name of Lydia Yermoshina, the head of the CEC. Only 38.4% agree that elections in Belarus are carried out in “in the absolutely democratic atmosphere”. This fact makes us doubt the legitimacy of the future deputies of the National Assembly.

Table 3. Distribution of answers to the question “Do you agree with the following statements of President Alexander Lukashenko made in connection to the next parliamentary election on September 11?” depending on attitude to A. Lukashenko, %

Variant of answer All respondents Attitude to A. Lukashenko
Trust Don’t trust
Belarusian electoral law is not worse than in other countries where elections were accepted by the international structures 51.2 83.4 24.1
People’s will, according to the hands-on experience, will be expressed in the absolutely democratic atmosphere 38.4 64.4 20.2
Only worthy representatives of work collectives, political parties and social associations will join the electoral committees 45.1 71.0 22.7

Answering the direct question “Do you believe that these elections will be free and just?”, 38.1% of respondents gave a positive answer (36.8% in June 2012), 36.1% – a negative one (39.6%), and 25.8% of respondents didn’t know what to say (23.6%).

The third statement of Lukashenko (“Only worthy representatives of work collectives, political parties and social associations will join the electoral committees”) did not receive support from half of respondents as well. The soundness of mass doubt was confirmed on June 27 during the formation of regional and territorial electoral committees.

Political preferences of Belarusian voters are reflected in chart 4. Despite the economic crisis, they didn’t change much comparatively to June 2012, and the answers are divided almost equally between the candidates loyal to the power, oppositional and other (independent) candidates. However, there is no doubt that in the result of elections the overwhelming majority of electors will make the “right” choice, and only Lukashenko’s supporters will be elected to the National Assembly.

Validity of our estimate is partly confirmed by the answers to the question of chart 5. In the state for the people, where popular rule is regarded as the backbone principle, only 37.5% of adult population agrees that their votes influence the results of elections (62.3% of supporters and 18.8% of opponents of Lukashenko).

The readiness to vote in parliamentary elections in September was declared by 45.3% of youth (18-29) and by 69.7% of elderly people (60+), by 75% of Belarusians with primary education and by 50% – with higher. Thus, the future of Belarus (let’s factor out the specific way of counting the votes for a moment) is defined by electors with the minimal ability to become active participants of creating the future. Social policy of “the state for the people” is oriented to satisfying their interests.