Elections 2015: Lukashenka won again, no arrests
Belarusian electoral machine has ‘improved’ and now ensures Lukashenka’s re-election through a combination of administrative pressure and falsifications with minimal violence. The policy of the authorities as a result of the election will remain unchanged, the opposition is likely to be reformatted and leaders may change.
The Central Electoral Commission has announced the preliminary results of the elections: Lukashenka – 83,4%, followed by "against all" – 6,4%, Karatkevich – 4,42%, Gaydukevich – 3,32%, and Ulakhovich – 1,67%.
It should be noted that during this elections there were no independent opinion polls. As a rule, candidates’ headquarters requested polls from foreign sociological laboratories from Ukraine and Russia and Vardomatsky’s Novak laboratory. In the 2015 elections, candidates did not have funds to organise independent polls and the only source of alternative information would be IISEPS polls, which were scheduled for December this year. However, the IISEPS data would only report about respondents’ moods in December.
Lukashenka’s voting machine continues to improve. In the current elections, it has managed to ensure unprecedented high turnout during the early voting. Moreover, observers said that the official early turnout figures had been inflated relative to the real by maximum 10%. In addition, the authorities’ attitudes and treatment of observers, candidates and elections coverage by the official media was less harsh than in previous elections.
After 8 pm on October 11th, several protesters gathered on the October Square in Minsk and about 200 people marched to the Independence Square, taking the same route as protesters in 2010. The action lasted about an hour and ended with no arrests. It should be noted that there were no detentions regardless of Lukashenka warning at a polling station No1 regarding unacceptability of street protests after 8 pm.
Ulakhovich and Gaydukevich have congratulated Lukashenka on his election victory - despite the disappointing number of votes they have collected. Karatkevich intends to challenge the election results. The split in the opposition will deteriorate after the elections despite the fact that neither supporters of Karatkevich, nor supporters of Statkevich have agreed with the election results and neither of them showed up at the protest action after the elections. In the coming months supporters of Karatkevich will attempt to build the potential of the candidate and supporters of Statkevich will seek opportunities to organise street protests. Meanwhile, further findings and impact of the elections on the opposition will be analysed in the coming weeks.
As for the ‘regular’ winner Lukashenka, he does not intend to review his policies. To be fair, he probably could not, even if he had such intention.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.