One round only in Belarusian presidential elections
Political sentiments of Belarusians as recorded by the IISEPS national poll on September 2nd - 12th, enable the prediction that more than half of the voters would come to the polling stations and that the majority of those who come would vote for the incumbent president. Tatsiana Karatkevich would be the second. Protests are unlikely.
The national poll was conducted before the campaigning stage kicked off. Apparently, campaigning may somewhat influence voters’ behaviour, but not in a crucial way. Based on the past IISEPS polls during the presidential campaigns, the agitation stage has influenced only circa 10-15% of the voters. In addition, during the 2010 elections, the IISEPS poll suggested that circa 30% would vote not for Lukashenka, which included all other candidates and ‘against all’ candidate. It is likely that in the 2015 campaign, this one-third may be distributed between Karatkevich, Gaidukevich, and Ulakhovich in favour of Karatkevich (approximately 15-20%).
Answers to the question: “On July 20th, the CEC completed the registration of initiative groups to nominate candidates for the presidency. If the names of the following politicians will be on the ballot, for whom would you vote?"
Alexander Lukashenko, the President of the Republic of Belarus - 45.7%
Tatiana Karatkevich, the candidate of the civil campaign "People’s Referendum" - 17.9%
Sergei Gaydukevich, chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party - 11.4%
Viktor Tereshchenko, economist - 8.1%
Nikolai Ulakhovich, Belarusian Cossacks Ataman - 3.6%
No answer -13.3%
Given the promotion of the ‘boycott’ and ‘neglecting’ of the elections by some democratic forces, the IISEPS has dedicated a special report regarding the effectiveness of this kind of campaign. The IISEPS notes that the willingness to vote in the presidential elections has gradually decreased since 2001, and in 2015 reached 72.5%, which is significantly lower than in 2011 (88.4%), but higher than in June 2015 (71.4%). The IISEPS also notes that the share of the supporters of the ‘boycott’ (15.5%) is lower than those who do not plan to come to the polling stations (23.8%).
IISEPS sociologists have noted the growing fatalism among Belarusian voters. For instance, the dynamics of answers to the question "If you believe that the results of the presidential elections were rigged, what are you likely to do?" to which the answer is “I will accept it, because it cannot be changed” started with 37.1% in 2006 and reached 48.6% in 2015. Moreover, the IISEPS notes, that Lukashenka’s opponents are more confident that the election results are predetermined (74.5%) than his supporters (46.2%).
In addition, the IISEPS has noted yet another eloquent detail in the current election campaign - despite the fact that only 32.4% of respondents had received campaign materials for any candidate or have met candidates representatives, 43% of respondents said they had enough information to make a confident choice. For comparison, in 2010, 50.7% saw candidates’ campaign materials, but only 31.7% believed that the information was sufficient to make the choice.
Overall, IISEPS sociologists have confidently concluded that the turnout will be achieved, that the elections will be held in one round, that Lukashenka will win and that the majority of voters will accept his fresh lease of power.
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.