Pre-elections polls in Belarus: loyalty to president, disloyalty to state institutions

April 22, 2016 19:16

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.

 

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The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.

In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.

The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.

There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.

That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.