Presidential elections threaten the countrys economic stability

April 22, 2016 18:33

On July 4th, the Independent Institute for Socio-Economic and Political Studies published the quarterly opinion polls results. The survey engaged 1,513 respondents 18 years and older, representation error does not exceed 0.03.

Improved President Lukashenko’s electoral rating requires the government to increase expenditure significantly to raise voter’s incomes. This task creates an additional risk to the country’s economic stability and increases dependence of the state on external funding.

The polls demonstrated that President Lukashenko’s electoral rating increased to 37.3% (in March it was 33.4%). Respondents, whose financial situation has deteriorated, declined to 21.6% from 28.7% in March. The share of respondents with improved financial situation remained unchanged at 13.7%. Financial situation has not changed for a larger group - 63.1% against 56.4% in March.

The poll suggests there is an important peculiarity in how the living standards grow in Belarus: people’s incomes do not increase evenly, but only in government priority sectors. For example, in January-May, real wages in the health sector, in annual terms, increased by 5.3%, and in the construction sector - by 39.9%. Therefore, the overall 22% increase in real incomes in the whole country since early 2013 remains largely unnoticed by the population. Accordingly, the president’s electoral rating is growing slower than before.

It should also be noted that Lukashenko’s electoral rating dynamics during his current 4th presidential term clearly differs from previous years. For example, in 2003-2004 (presidential election in 2006), population’s real incomes grew by 4% and 10% respectively, while president’s electoral rating rose from 29% to 39%. In 2012-2013 (presidential election in 2015) voters’ real incomes increased by 21% and 22%, respectively, but Lukashenko’s rating rose from 32% to 37%.

This comparison shows that currently the ruling group needs more resources than before to buy votes. In 2006-2010 Lukashenko’s electoral rating according to IISEPS was comfortable 40 %, which allowed ‘to buy’ the remaining supporters during the election year and ensure support by the majority of voters.

Clearly, if incomes continue growing at this pace, times faster than productivity growth, in the coming two years additional risks to macroeconomic stability in Belarus will be created and the state will become increasingly more dependent on external funding sources. Decreased production reduces chances to find the necessary funds inside the country.

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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.