Presidential elections threaten the countrys economic stability
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.
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.