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.
President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.
President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.
The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.
The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.
The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.