Mass protests continue in Belarus. Alexander Lukashenko, who has been holding the presidency for 26 years, is trying to stay in his chair, ordering the security forces to violently disperse the rallies. At the same time, apparently realizing that in many respects his future fate depends on Russian President Vladimir Putin, he initiated a meeting with the master of the Kremlin in Sochi. The talks between the two leaders took place one-on-one. They lasted more than four hours. After Lukashenka’s meeting with Putin, it was announced that Russia would give Belarus a loan in the amount of one and a half billion dollars.
Let us remind you that the next presidential elections in Belarus took place on August 9. According to the Central Election Commission, Alyaksandr Lukashenka won them, for whom 80 percent of the voters allegedly voted. However, supporters of the opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya announced that the voting results were falsified. They were supported by the citizens of Belarus, who took part in peaceful protests. Also, the results of the elections were not recognized in the EU. Following the European Union The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted a statement, in which the Belarusian presidential elections are called “neither free nor fair”.
Sociological research and exit polls in Belarus are actually banned. That is why it is quite difficult for citizens to find out the real rating of support for Alexander Lukashenko, who has been ruling the country for five terms in a row. Does Old Man know his real rating? Will he be able to sit in the presidential chair? “FACTS” talked about this with famous Belarusian sociologist Andrei Vardomatskywho lives and works in Poland.
“Research of ratings is prohibited in Belarus”
– Andrei, is it true that sociological research is officially prohibited in Belarus?
– Not certainly in that way. Sociological research is permitted in Belarus. But sociology is not limited solely to assessing the president’s rating. Here are ranked studies – yes, they are banned for all but one official structure.
– Is public opinion polling punishable by criminal liability?
– No, administrative. But in Belarus, administrative responsibility is not only fines, but also the closure of an organization that decided to conduct a sociological study. The lack of such information cannot but raise questions for the society. Why can’t you conduct your own opinion poll about trust in the president? So the authorities have something to hide? Does it mean that everything is not so simple with the level of support for the president? Imagine these headlines in the press: “According to a closed sociological study, Zelensky’s rating is such and such.” It’s hard to imagine this in Ukraine, isn’t it? You have at least five large independent sociological services conducting research before the elections. Open research. In Poland, during the last presidential elections, eight structures were engaged in sociology.
What does “closed sociological research” mean? Opaque? And here in Belarus everything seems to be exactly that. That is why we have memorials, in which Lukashenka is called “three percent”, hinting that this is precisely the real level of his support.
– Honestly, I find it hard to believe that before the current presidential elections Lukashenka had a rating of only 3% …
– I’m not speaking now as a political scientist. I am inside the sociological field. As for the data on the level of support for Lukashenka, which was provided by the official structures, I have not seen technical reports on how the polls were conducted. And this is very important. It is not known how they interviewed, whom they interviewed. These data are closed to the public. And people say: “If Lukashenka doesn’t have 3% support, why don’t you provide other real figures after a transparently conducted sociological research? If you don’t give it, maybe 3% is a real figure? ”
– Did Alexander Lukashenko order sociological surveys before the elections to find out his real rating?
– This can only be assumed. The press published official data compiled from polls. It indicated that the level of support for the Belarusian president before the start of the elections was 80 percent. But I find it difficult to assess the technical quality of these surveys.
– That is, Lukashenka is deceiving himself by ordering such unprofessional research? Or is this data close to the truth?
– The data may not be entirely accurate. These polls are not anonymous. The interviewee must introduce himself, name his data. When polling a citizen, they call and say: “We represent the official structure under the presidential administration, please answer our questions” … Not everyone wants to show themselves unreliable. Especially in Belarus, where there is no democracy as such. And even if the person who was called does not support Lukashenka’s policy, he can give the exact opposite answer for reasons of his own safety.
But there is another important aspect. This is the publication of the received and processed survey results. If it turns out that Lukashenka’s rating is actually not as high as it is supposed, then how to publish such information in the media so as not to run into Old Man’s wrath? And Lukashenka has a very specific perception of reality. Do you know what usually happened in the Middle Ages with a messenger who brought bad news? That is, the information received, as it rises vertically upward, can vary greatly. And this is not an exclusively Belarusian phenomenon. This is observed in all countries with an authoritarian regime.
Read also: Hundreds of wounded and thousands of detainees: international human rights activists accused Minsk of mass arrests and torture
– And you personally, as a sociologist, have not studied Lukashenka’s real rating?
– It’s forbidden here …
– But you are not in Belarus, but in Poland! Can’t do that kind of research anyway?
– You understand what the matter is … Now the mass consciousness of Belarusians will not perceive any numbers at all. Today in Belarus, for the first time since independence, the level of mistrust towards the state mass media has exceeded the level of mistrust towards opposition sources.
“Lukashenka has already passed the point of no return”
– Can you give an expert assessment of the situation in Belarus? How do you see her near future?
– It is a very thankless task to make predictions with so many factors. I can say that Lukashenka has already passed the point of no return. Do you remember that in the last elections on December 19, 2010, the protesters in the central square in Minsk were dispersed in seven and a half minutes. The very next day after the elections, the capital was quiet.
Now the situation is different. A large number of different social groups are involved in the protests. In addition, in Belarus there has never been such a thing that protests in several cities at the same time. And to be precise, on some days they held meetings in 23 cities. Previously, such actions took place only in Minsk.
Lukashenka is unable to suppress these protests by internal forces. He has a limited number of riot policemen at his disposal. As for the army, it is generally unclear how it will behave in this situation. Therefore, in order to try to predict further events in Belarus, you need to clearly know what kind of game Putin will play.
Read also: “Putin, bring in troops” will not be shouted in Belarus. This is out of the question “
Much depends on the position of the Russian president in Belarus. The Kremlin is trying to influence the Belarusians to the maximum. Even our official information field is actually Russian. Do you know that mostly Russian journalists work on the Belarusian state TV channels?
– In Ukraine, Russian journalists also work on some TV channels …
– No, no, the situation here is completely different. There was a strike of television workers in Belarus. After that, some journalists left TV. And their place was taken by the Russians. Naturally, they show the picture for the viewers, which is beneficial to Russia. Therefore, many citizens of Belarus see on screens that the protests seem to be not massive. There are a hundred people, there are two hundred. The main thing here is how to present the news and what to show in the frame.
– Many people try to compare the events in Belarus with the Euromaidan in Ukraine. Do you think there are similarities?
– There are many differences. In Ukraine, the protest movement had leaders: party leaders, well-known activists. Such a situation is impossible in Belarus. Because in our country, if any opposition leader appears, he immediately, in a couple of weeks, disappears into the depths of the Belarusian legal system. This time, too, presidential candidates Viktor Babariko and Sergei Tikhanovsky were detained. Now the same fate awaits the members of the coordinating council. But absolutely amazing processes of self-organization have begun in Belarus. There was no such thing anywhere. Neither in Ukraine nor in Tunisia …
– Will Lukashenka keep his post?
– Let’s not guess at the level of grandmothers sitting on benches at the entrances. I can say with confidence that the shares will be very long-term. Lukashenka thought that the protest moods of citizens in Belarus could be overcome at once, but it turned out differently. He evaluates reality in a completely different way. I think that in the end Lukashenka will not sit in the presidential chair.
Earlier, “FACTS” wrote that, according to Doctor of Historical Sciences Yuri Felshtinsky, Putin can seize Belarus at any time.