Opinion polls: stable pessimism and growing presidents popularity
On March 29th, Independent Institute for Socio-Economic and Political Studies published March opinion polls results in Belarus. 1513 Belarusians were interviewed, statistical error is not more than 3%.
President Lukashenko’s rating started growing slowly amid preserved dissatisfaction with the quality of life in the society. The prevailing attitudes towards the authorities’ main strategic project - economic modernization - remain pessimistic, and a high level of mistrust determines the population’s negative attitude to open political protests.
The polls recorded a slight drop in the economic well-being index of Belarusians in the Q1 2013, which could be explained by 8% drop in average salaries in early 2013 amid sharp 11% increase in wages in December 2012.
In particular, “economic pessimism” has increased: those who noted deterioration of their financial situation increased from 26.7% to 28.7%. Conversely, the “economic optimists’” share has decreased from 17.4% in December to 13.3% in March. Compared with 2010 (the last presidential election year), 36.7% of the respondents said their life quality had deteriorated, 48.4% saw no change, and 12.2% reported an improvement.
A similar pessimism is relevant regarding the President Lukashenko’s statement in late 2012 about Belarus’ economic modernization. One-third believes in effective use of modernization funds, 28.1% believe that these funds will be stolen. At the same time, only 35.4% believe in technological breakthrough in Belarus’ economy in the next 10 years, and over 40% doubt it.
However, against this negative background President Lukashenko managed to slightly improve his popularity. Firstly, the confidence rating has increased: share of those trusting the president has increased from 39.1% in December 2012 to 43.4% in March 2013, and the share of disloyal decreased from 49.1% to 43.2%. Secondly, Lukashenko’s electoral rating improved from 31.5% in December to 33.4% in March. Lukashenko’s average electoral rating between elections is around 40-42%.
Willingness of Belarusians to organize and participate in open protests against the state policy is still low. In particular, the level of mutual distrust in Belarus remains high - 70% believe they should be very cautious in relationships with other people. Prior to the 2010 presidential elections the proportion was 72.2%.
Mutual distrust’s high levels atomize the society and determine Belarusians’ negative attitude to the traditional “agents of change”: 60.9% do not trust the opposition parties against trusting 13.1%. Opposition leaders’ electoral ratings do not exceed 5.1% (Nyaklyaeu), 2.8% (Sannikov and Milinkevich). Finally, 75.9% of respondents say that they are not ready to increase their participation in politics.
President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.
President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.
The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.
The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.
The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.