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.
Last week, Belarusian Foreign Minister Makei participated in the foreign ministers’ meeting of the Eastern Partnership and Visegrad Group initiative hosted by Warsaw. The Belarusian FM emphasized Belarus' interest in cooperation in the transport sector, which could be due to Belarus’ desire to export electricity surplus after Belarus finished construction of the nuclear power plant in Ostrovets. Minsk expressed concerns about Warsaw’s stance on the Belarusian NPP, as it refused to buy electricity from Belarus and supported Vilnius’ protest on this issue. Following accusations by the Belarusian leadership and the state media against western states, including Poland, of training "nationalist militants", Minsk did not agree on the visit of the European Parliament deputies from Lithuania and Germany to Belarus and to the NPP construction site near Ostrovets in particular. In addition, the Belarusian authorities have stepped up efforts to enforce education in Russian in Polish-language schools in Grodno and Vaukavysk. Should a rift in Belarusian-Polish relations persist, the Belarusian authorities are likely to step up the pressure on the Polish-speaking minority in Belarus.