Over 70% of Belarusian citizens are ready to take part in the forthcoming presidential election. These are the results of a survey conducted by the Center of sociological and political studies of BSU, which were made public by the leader of the center D. Rotman on a TV-show on the 28th of June.
As you can see from Graph 1, the results of official sociologists, related to the expected turnout for the presidential election in October, coincide with the results of IISEPS survey. It should be noted that A. Lukashenko’s supporters are much more willing to vote than his opponents: 86.7% vs. 53.5%.
In December 2010 the turnout amounted to 87-88%. Does that mean that Belarusians are not going to vote so actively in the forthcoming election? It’s impossible to answer this question unambiguously. Power still has time to mobilize the electorate. But we cannot also exclude the possibility that the election will be held in the “boring mode”. At least, the lack of success in economy will push the power to do so.
Relatively low level of electoral activity is paradoxically combined with the increased attention to political events (Table 1). However, this paradox has a simple explanation: Ukrainian events. You should note the jump from 28% up to 44.5% of the share of respondents who discuss political events with their friends. It’s easy to guess, that in the list of actual political events presidential election in Belarus is not occupying the first place. As for other types of political activity (except for voting in elections), there was no increase exceeding the limit of statistical error. So to say all the increase of interest in politics is reduced to “blah-blah-blah”.
Table 1. Dynamics of answering the question: “If you are interested in politics, how do you express your interest?”, % (more than one answer is possible)
Variant of answer
I take part in elections
I follow attentively the information on political events
I discuss political events with my friends
I take part in political actions, meetings, strikes
I take part in organizing and conducting election campaigns
I sign letters, petitions
I attend events organized by certain political party (movement)
I am a member of a political party (movement)
I’m not interested in politics at all
* These variants of answers were not present
In particular, a good evidence of prevalence of external policy topics over internal is the level of awareness of “chatters” about A. Lukashenko’s Message on the 29th of April. Just compare: the average level of awareness – 61.1%, among the “chatters” – 64.6%.
The 20-point increase of the share of answers “I take part in elections” needs a clarification, which is not so easy to explain. The figure of 68.5% in June 2015 is not so different from the declarative turnout (71.4%), so there is nothing strange about it. What looks really strange is the figure of 48.9% in March 2003.
In the answers to the open question “If presidential election was held tomorrow, who you would vote for?” only six potential candidates managed to exceed 3%, i.e. the level of statistical error: A. Lukashenko – 38.6%, M. Statkevich – 5%, V. Neklyaev – 4.7%, A. Lebedko – 4.2%, S. Gaydukevich – 3.9% and S. Kalyakin – 3.1%.
We have also asked a closed question in June (Table 2). The results are close. The same six politicians managed to cross the symbolical 3% threshold. The experience of previous presidential election campaigns demonstrates that electoral base of oppositional candidates is quite stable and amounts to 25-30%. There is every reason to expect the same level of support during the forthcoming election in October. And we’re not taking into account the “reduction coefficient”, which depends on low turnout.
Table 2. Distribution of answers to the question: “Another election of the President of Republic of Belarus is coming. Some politicians and public activists have already stated (or will probably state) that they intend to run for this post. If their names were in the voting paper, who would you vote for?”, %
Variant of answer
Alexander Lukashenko, the President of Republic of Belarus
Nikola Statkevich, the leader of the non-registered Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Narodnaya Gramada), presidential candidate in the 2010 elections, currently serving his sentence in prison
Vladimir Neklyayev, Belarusian poet and writer, presidential candidate in the 2010 elections, initiator of the movement “For the statehood and independence of Belarus”
Sergey Gaydukevich, the leader of the Liberal Democrat Party, presidential candidate in the 2001 and 2006 elections
Anatoly Lebedko, the head of the United Civil Party of Belarus
Sergey Kalyakin, the leader of the Belarusian Left Party “A Just World”
Count Alexander Prushinki, former citizen of Poland and Canada, later moved to Belarus
Elena Anisim, deputy head of the Belarusian Language Society
Tatyana Korotkevich, the candidate from the “People’s Referendum” campaign
For another candidate
Level of electoral support of oppositional candidates is traditionally almost twice as high as the trust rating of oppositional parties. Comparatively to March, it decreased by 5.4 points in June: from 18.8% down to 13.4%. This decrease is statistically significant; nevertheless, it doesn’t make sense to try to find an explanation for it.
One shouldn’t forget about the Anomaly-2015 as well. It won’t add votes in favor of oppositional candidates, which is confirmed by the dynamics of answers to the question of Graph 2. The share of respondents ready to support candidates from democratic opposition turned out to be minimal in June. A. Lukashenko also lost 10% of his voters in comparison with September 2005. However, all this is nothing more than a play of numbers if you remember Belarusian specific nature of votes’ counting.
account the high level of agreement with A. Lukashenko’s statement “We don’t need confrontation inside of our country. That is why we need to hold discussions with everyone” (61.2%), the declaration of readiness for a dialogue in society looks quite appropriate, especially against the background of bloody events in Ukraine. Only 9.9% of respondents agreed that street protests may be regarded as a source of desired changes, while 49% of respondents pronounced themselves in favor of elections and 27.9% – in favor of a referendum.
The problem of standing up against authoritarian power is the problem of political opposition only in the second place. In the first place it’s a problem of society. Politics, as German political scientist K. Schmidt put it, emerges in the conditions where some community sees itself as a unity through certain organization of collective actions.
There is no such community in Belarus today. One of the reasons preventing from organization of collective actions is the low level of social capital, demonstrated by the dynamics of answers to the question of Graph 3. For comparison, according to World Values Survey, 74% of Norwegians think that other people are trustworthy.
In Belarus the basic social type is still “homo sovieticus”, a person, formed under the influence of a repressive state. His values were formed in the world, where the ability to turn an aluminum spoon into a shank was valued very high. But this person lacks basic skills of social life, which is built not on the struggle against everyone, but on mutual help, service exchange and trust.