Social scientists confirm cautious increase in optimism
The Independent Institute of Socio-Economic and Political Studies (IISEPS) presented the results of the March national poll. The study involved 1,509 respondents; representative error does not exceed 3%.
The positive trend in society’s attitudes, beginning in December 2011, has not changed: the authorities continue to restore citizens’ trust. Even if public mood deteriorates again due to the economic situation worsening, it is unlikely to become a threat to the regime.
IISEPS’ poll from March confirmed that the public mood of Belarusians is related to the country’s economic situation to a very high degree. Therefore, overcoming the financial crisis by the authorities has led to an increase in positive mood on key indicators. Thus, the number of respondents whose financial situation has improved rose from 7% (in December) to 15%. In turn, the proportion of people whose situation worsened decreased from 60% (in December) to 40%.
As a consequence, economic optimism had a positive impact on the electoral rating of the President, which has risen from 25% to 34% in the last three months. The number of citizens who trust Lukashenko has also increased: from 31% to 42%. It is expected that the continuation of the authorities’ soft economic policy will lead to an economic dominance of \"optimists\" over \"pessimists\" in society as well as to an increased number of Lukashenko supporters in the near future.
Studies over the year show that the mood of the Belarusians can rapidly deteriorate due to falling living standards: Lukashenko’s rating sank to a record low of 20% in September 2011.
However, this loss of confidence has almost no effect on citizens’ protest potential: according to IISEPS, the research sample of those supporting active protest is always about 25% of which the following were ready for action in March: 16% (rallies), 1.7% (strikes) and 2.3% (pickets).
The credibility of the opposition political parties is low - 17% (in December 2011 - 13.4%, in September - 12.3%), and ratings of opposition leaders remain as before: Neklyaev - 6.8%; Sannikov - 6.1%. It is therefore not surprising that the idea of a boycott of parliamentary elections in September is supported by only 10.6% today.
Thus, we can say that the opposition has failed to benefit from the period of economic crisis and the recession of public mood to strengthen its position. In a situation of growing public optimism it will be even more difficult for the opposition to expand the circle of its supporters.
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.