Lukashenko's ratings have stabilised at a historical low
President Lukashenko’s electoral rating stopped growing, despite some improvements in the economic situation in Belarus. This state of affairs increases risks for the current authorities in the 2015 presidential campaign and opens new opportunities for other players.
On October 21st, Independent Institute of Socio-Economic and Political Studies presented the results of the quarterly Belarusian public opinion poll. 1502 persons were interviewed; sampling error is not more than 0.03.
The main peculiarity in the current socio-political situation in Belarus is the incoherence between the people’s economic expectations and their willingness to vote for Lukashenka (i.e. to support the current government). In September, the number of people, whose financial situation has deteriorated over the past three months, decreased by 7 percentage points to 25% from 31.9% in June (in December 2011 it came to 59.8%). However, Lukashenko’s electoral rating has increased only by 1.9 percentage points, which lies within a statistical error.
Lukahenko’s electoral rating, %
Arguably, during his fourth Presidential term (2010-2015), Lukashenko’s rating stabilized at historically low 30%. Moreover, Belarusians’ willingness to vote for Lukashenko no longer depends on the consistent wages and pensions increases, as before. Belarusians are more pessimistic about their future well-being: 27.8% believe that the economic situation in Belarus will deteriorate in the coming years, and only 18.4% hope for improvement (against 21.4% in June).
In these circumstances, the authorities are forced to adhere to the usual policy: raise populism and continue increasing wages and pensions, regardless of the “electoral investment’s” decreased efficiency. In the meanwhile, many assess that the authorities’ reserves to maintain, let alone improve the population’s living standards are particularly scarce. Therefore, various political and shadow players, including the opposition, have real opportunities to apply substantial pressure on the authorities before the presidential election campaign starts in 2015.
First of all, law enforcement representatives should be included into the shady players, particularly those who enjoy high fidelity of President Lukashenko: it is in their objective interests to preserve economic risks in the country to retain their status. Secondly, nomenklatura, which concentrated around “Belaya Rus” quango, aiming to preserve their positions, gained in 2000s. At last, the Belarusian opposition, who operate mainly in the spirit of the 90s paradigms, and only now start determining their action plan for the next political campaign.
Paradoxically, in the existing balance of power, Alexander Lukashenko is the only interested party in increasing his ratings and electoral popularity. All other conventional players are interested in preserving his weakened legitimacy as the President, which provides them with a leverage to achieve their goals. Developments after the 2010 Presidential election showed that Lukashenko himself is likely to count on the security forces, even if it is detrimental to all other interest groups.
In addition, opinion poll results concerning the turnout during the last parliamentary elections are worth mentioning. According to sociologists, the turnout in the country was 66.4% (44% in Minsk); elections were boycotted by 9.6% (18.9% in Minsk). As anticipated, these data have been criticized by politicians who participated in the various boycott campaigns.
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.