Parliamentary election will take place in Belarus in the next year. Most population in the neighboring Russia got disappointed in the very election procedure that turned obvious at the mayor election in St. Petersburg. As for Belarus, so far a vast majority of citizens are ready to take part in the election (See Table 1).
Table 1. Distribution of answers to the question “Will you take part in the election to the National Assembly of Belarus in 2004?”

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A year before the election, 70% of respondents airs readiness to cast their votes. It appears that there are two, on the first sight, opposite rationales driving them: some – old generation mainly – are ready to go to election out of a Soviet habit but others regard election as the instrument of changes.
International organizations, governments of Western countries and the Belarusian opposition estimated the latest presidential election of 2001 as non-free and unfair. Two years later, this estimation is shared by a considerable part of respondents (See Table 2).

Table 2. Distribution of answers to the question “Do you think the latest presidential election of 2001 was free and fair?”

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Nearly the same number of respondents fears that the next year election won’t meet democratic standards either (See Table 3).

Table 3. Distribution of answers to the question “Do you believe that the election-2004 to the National Assembly of Belarus will be free and fair?”

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It should be noted that those convinced in the fairness of coming election are fewer than those who estimated the latest election as fair (the difference is statistically relevant). Nevertheless, people haven’t given up their belief in election. Even simple comparison of data in Tables 1 and 3 shows that a great deal of those who don’t believe in fair character of the coming election is still ready to participate in it. Such a great mass of respondents challenging fairness of the coming election is accounted for by the great popularity of propositions to reconsider acting electoral legislation (See Table 4).

Table 4. Distribution of answers to the question “Many citizens have been lately coming out with demands to introduce amendments into the Electoral Code so that the election in Belarus becomes more free and fair. Some people support those demands, others – not. What is your opinion?”

Variant of answer
Don’t support: acting Electoral Code doesn’t disable free and fair election, so it needn’t be changed
Support: acting Electoral Code disables free and fair election, so it should be changed
It is well seen that those who stand for amendments into the Electoral Code are almost equal in number to those challenging fairness of both the latest presidential election and the coming parliamentary election. This fact reveals that the society still believes in not just the election but also in the law, in that amendments to the written law can bring forth changes in the political game in general.
As regards participation in the coming parliamentary election, most respondents have already made up their minds. However, the situation is opposite as concerns particular party preferences (See Table 5).

Table 5. Distribution of answers to the question “Which political party is closer to you in its political views?”, %

Variant of answer
Women’s Party Nadzeya (V. Matusevich)
Party of Communists Belarusian (S. Kalyakin)
Liberal Democratic Party (S. Gaidukevich)
United Civil Party (A. Lebedko)
Belarusian Social-Democratic Gromada (S. Shushkevich)
Belarusian Ecological Green Party (O. Gromyko)
Belarusian Popular Front (Adradzhenne) (V. Vecherko)
Labor Party (A. Bukhvostov)
Conservative Christian Party of BPF (Z. Poznyak)
Belarusian Social-Democratic Party (Narodnaya Hramada) (N. Statkevich)
None of them + DA/NA

* Party Nadzeya wasn’t included into the questionnaire during the March opinion poll due to changes in its board composition

As one can see, there’s a general tendency of a minor popularity drop-down with almost all parties while the structure of party preferences maintained over the past years hasn’t changed. Top positions of the Liberal Democratic Party can be apparently accounted for by its leader’s participation in the presidential campaign. Traditionally high rating of the party Nadzeya that hasn’t showed itself with anything particular most probably indicates absence of experience among Belarusians to choose by party lists – they respond to attractive name and women, above all, are guided by that this is women’s party. If the parliamentary election was held in Belarus in September of 2003 and in accordance with the rules adopted in Russia, only the parties Nadzeya, PCB, LDP and UCP would have taken the 5%-barrier, as statistical estimate of data in Table 5 shows.
Another and the most essential point revealed in Table 5 is that some two thirds of respondents don’t see mouthpieces of their interests in any of those parties. Indirectly, this non-party character of electoral preferences aired by the Belarusian population in its most part is proved by Table 6.

Table 6. Distribution of answers to the question “Imagine that you have to choose one of the five candidates listed below at the election to the National Assembly in 2004. Who of them would you vote for?”

Variant of answer
Director of a state enterprise
Entrepreneur running his own business
Member of the currently acting National Assembly
Leader of an opposition party or a public movement
Chairman or spokesman of a public organization (NGO)
None of them
Clearly, data in Table 6 is rather conventional – people make real choice grounded not on candidate’s social status only. Yet, those data still reflects the system of electoral preferences in that parameter. We would like to draw your attention to several interesting facts. Leadership of the ‘director of state enterprise’ points out that most respondents take election still in the Soviet way (to remind, we talk about electing representatives of national authorities – deputies to the parliament and not to the local councils). At the same time preference rates of businessmen, deputies of the current parliament and opposition leaders are very close. They are taken either surprisingly well or surprisingly poor. In a word, surprisingly equally. NGO candidate obviously loses to representatives of those three groups. In particular, Table 6 shows that the status of a director at a state enterprise or of a deputy of the National Assembly won’t give large electoral advantage to the candidate at the coming election unlike the status of a businessman or an opposition leader.