Pre-elections polls in Belarus: loyalty to president, disloyalty to state institutions
Last week, IISEPS presented June 2015 national poll results, which demonstrated that despite the fact that the overall social pre-election environment was favourable for Lukashenka’s re-election, the risk of an economic crisis would heighten by the end of the campaign. Amid growing popular support for the president, trust in public institutions, including the financial bodies, continued to diminish. The authorities seem to underestimate social risks, which could destabilise the election campaign.
June 2015 national poll results have turned out quite positive for Lukashenka’s electoral prospects. His electoral ratings have grown compared with March 2015 from 34.2% to 38.6% in June 2015. Simultaneously, the proportion of electorate unwilling to vote neither for Lukashenka, nor for a democratic candidate, has grown too – from 21% to 27%. Other candidates’ ratings are as follows: Statkevich - 6.5%, Nyaklyaeu - 5.7%, Lebedko - 5.4%, Gaydukevich - 5.4%, Kalyakin - 4.4%, Prushinskiy - 2.6%, Anisim - 2.4%, and Karatkevich - 2.2%. The ratings of all possible alternative candidates have somewhat grown since March 2015, except Nyaklyaeu. In addition, the polls have drawn out the electoral environment’s polarisation, which is characteristic of Belarus.
Amid 72% of the population believing that the Belarusian economy is in a recession, the overall economic well-being of Belarusians has slightly improved. Compared with March 2015 (46.3%), in June 2015 37.2% of respondents said their financial situation had deteriorated, while 9% said it ‘has not changed’ and 51.3% that it ‘has improved’ (44% in March 2015). The average income per household member (including wages, pensions, benefits, etc.) has increased from USD 211 in March 2015 to USD 240 in June 2015.
Hierarchy of economic fears of the population in June 2015 included price-hikes - 76.9%, unemployment - 55.8%, production decline - 55.8%, and impoverishment - 49.3% (84.1%, 47.2%, 50.3%, 46.8% in March 2015, accordingly).
Voters’ attitudes towards almost all public institutions have remained negative. They have assessed officials currently in power as "people concerned only about their well-being and career" - 38.6%, and as "a good team of politicians leading the country in the right direction” - 14.4%. Regarding the fight against corruption in Belarus, 27.8% believe that Lukashenka will win the fight, 22.8% - that Lukashenka largely depends on corrupt officials, and 15.9% - that Lukashenka is "in some way interested in it”. 55.3% believe that the president primarily relies on the military, police, and the KGB; 48.8% - on the president’s executive "vertical"; 39.3% - on government officials; 36.6% - on pensioners; 24.6% - on rural population; and 17.4% - on ordinary people.
Amid Belarusians being highly sceptical towards public institutions, their economic expectations bear the highest risks for social stability in the country. In June 2015, 36.5% (33.6% in March) of respondents anticipated the economic situation to deteriorate, 21.7% (23.1%) – to improve and 36% - to remain unchanged. 34.6% of Belarusians believe, that "the whole situation in our country is developing in the right direction", while 49.4% believe it has taken the wrong direction (in March 2015 the ratio was 36.9% v 45.8%). Over 80% of the population anticipates a new devaluation of the Belarusian rouble in the coming months (72% in September 2013): 34.1% believe it is a real threat, and 46.5% - a potential one.
Albeit Belarusian pre-election social landscape appears relatively stable, it carries some risks. Firstly, high devaluation expectations, which in certain circumstances, coupled with low loyalty to public institutions and exaggerated anti-corruption moods may provoke financial and social crises. These sentiments are likely to manifest immediately after the elections, however, there are no guarantees it may not happen earlier, i.e. before the elections.
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.