Statement by IISEPS founder Professor Oleg Manaev


By IISEPS founder Professor Oleg Manaev

On July 31, 2016 Belarusian State Television broadcasted a program entitled, “Special Report on Public Opinion Polls Belarus: Truth or Forgery,” which stated that (SPELL OUT IISPES) IISEPS did not actually conduct public opinion polls in Belarus, and therefore, the resulting IISEPS research is falsified and cannot be trusted. A few hours later similar materials were published by the main state newspaper “Sovetskaya Belorussia” and the state news agency BELTA (http://www.belta.by/society/view/eksperty-o-nisepi-fabrika-podloga-203967-2016).

In response to these allegations, I state the following:

  • As founder of IISEPS, I categorically reject any and all claims that IISEPS is corrupt, a producer of false information, or a threat to Belarus. This piece of propaganda is nothing more than a desperate attempt by an authoritarian regime to weaken the chance for free and fair elections that are scheduled for this fall.  The tactics and techniques used to create this “special report” are nothing more than the same tactic and techniques used by authoritarian regimes since the 1930’s.  Any objective analysis will find the claims to be baseless and without merit.
  • The “Special Report” of the Belarusian state television is based on fraud and manipulation, including “confessions” of people that are in one way or another connected to IISEPS. The techniques of obtaining such falsified reports and accusations are well known both at home and abroad based on countless “reports”, “newscasts,” “analytical articles” and even “films” (such as the notorious film “Children of Lies”). Such falsifications are ordered, and sometimes performed, by the representatives of the Belarusian authorities, especially the security services. How exactly the “witness confessions” are made is also well known, based on various examples of mass arrests and subsequent public “revelations” made by the opposition leaders and even presidential candidates after the elections of December 19, 2010. Therefore, it does not make sense to address each false allegation one by one.
  • The history of repression by the Belarusian authorities against IISEPS is extensive, and includes public accusations of IISEPS working for Western intelligence agencies, participating in “conspiracies of the opposition against the government,” falsified “exposures”, searches by the KGB, litigation, dismissal from work, forfeiture, shut down, expulsion from the country, and even includes arrests. Multiple law enforcement agencies and officials were involved in repressions against IISEPS, including the head of state (see http://www.iiseps.org/?page_id=925). By abolishing the Institute using the Supreme Court’s decision in April 2005, the authorities have forced IISEPS leadership to re-establish the institute in Lithuania, and activities inside Belarus were forced to move underground.
  • The main reason for the repressions against the Institute is that for almost quarter of a century IISEPS has steadily followed our mission – to raise the level of competence and decision-making by all political actors, as well as to inform Belarusians about their own opinions on key social and political issues. Under the conditions of the authoritarian regime in Belarus, IISEPS is one of the few sources of objective, unbiased information about what is really happening in Belarus. It is, so to speak, a mirror which reflects the government and the opposition, and the entire society. In contrast to the state-controlled polling organizations, and despite all the repression, IISEPS has always sought to ensure the highest control of the quality of its research (http://www.old.iiseps.org/poll.html), and to maximize the openness of the research results. Over the decades the Institute’s press releases have been issued under the title “The voice of the people – for the people.”
  • Why is another attempt to stop IISEPS from functioning taking place now? I think the main reason is the upcoming parliamentary elections, or rather the fact that their conduct in accordance with the democratic norms of the European Union and the United States have been stated as one of the main conditions for further dialogue and improved relations with the Republic of Belarus (such as full lifting of sanctions, provision of credits and so on.). Judging by the numerous facts, for example a negligibly small inclusion of opposition representatives in election commissions, the Belarusian authorities are not going to change the rules of their political game. At the same time, in conditions of growing social and economic crisis in the country and increasingly complex geopolitical situation in the region, they are extremely interested in improving relations with the West. Since the results of the post-election polls that were conducted and made open to public (the number of publications in mass media referencing IISEPS has grown from 25 in 1992 to 3200 in 2015) significantly differ from the official results, our further activity is perceived by the authorities as a direct threat to their interests. The ending of this new erroneous report by the Belarusian television suggests that that “the materials obtained during the investigation will be transferred to law enforcement agencies,” as well as an allusion to the “mass media outlet receiving exclusive information from IISEPS” indicated that the Belarusian authorities are preparing another high-profile legal case in order to deprive Belarusian society and the international community from objective information about what is happening in our country.
  • I want to emphasize that the majority of employees of IISEPS, including those engaged in public opinion polls, are true professionals and decent people. A chance to work with these people has been an honor to me. In various universities and research organizations around the world, in which I have worked, IISEPS employees would enjoy well-deserved respect. However, they have to work in conditions of authoritarian Belarus, to talk to journalists of state-controlled mass media and law enforcement investigators under direct threat of prosecution. The main task now should be to support these people by all available means. Even if it will become impossible to conduct public opinion polls due to increased pressure of repressions, IISEPS will still find others ways to continue its activities and fulfill its mission.


August 1, 2016