Nearly half the people in Belarus regard Alexander Lukashenko a perfect politician. According to the results of a survey published by the well-known sociologist Professor Oleg Manayev, the Belarussian president tops the list of most popular political figures. Lukashenko is idolized by 44.7% of the respondents while 27.1% of them favor President Putin of Russia.
U.S. President Bush has 4.6%; French President Chirac has 4.4%; Cuban leader Castro has 3.9%; German Chancellor Merkel has 3.7%; Tony Blair has 3.5%, and Yulia Tymoshenko – 3.2%, the Belarussian newspaper Belorusskiye Noviny reports.
It is noteworthy that it is the first time in the last 6 years that Lukashenko’s latest popularity ratings became higher by 1.7 times than those of Putin’s. Sociologists point to the recent election campaign as a possible reason behind the surge in popularity of the Belarussian president. By the way, 44% of Belarussian would like to see Lukashenko as president of the union of Belarus and Russia should such a position be created. 22% of the respondents would rather see Putin as head of a new state.
One of the questions put to the respondents read: “Would you rather approve the integration of Belarus into the European Union or favor the union of Belarus and Russia into one state?”
56.1% of the polled are in favor of the union with Russia while 31.9% would rather see Belarus as a part of the EU. Almost the same percentage of the poll participants (52%) see themselves as the Soviet people while 36% consider themselves Europeans.
94% of Belarussians who regard Lukashenko as an ideal politician voted for him in the recent presidential election. However, the supporters of Vladimir Putin (53.5%) also cast their ballots for Lukashenko. Those who preferred Western politicians to domestic personalities, voted for Milinkevich, one of the opposition leaders.
The figures published by Manayev show a more accurate scale of Lukashenko’s popularity in Belarus. By the bye, Manayev is a director of Vilnius-based Independent Institute of Socioeconomic and Political Studies. Recently the institute has called the results of Belarus’s presidential election into question. According to the official Central Election Committee, Lukashenko scored a landslide victory getting 83% of the votes. However, the figures produced by independent opinion polls conducted by the above institute on March 27 and April 6 differ from the official data. The poll figures show that 63.6% of the Belarussians voted for Lukashenko. In other words, Lukashenko was given 20% or 1.2 votes “aside from” the original number of votes cast for him during the election. Western observers shared the viewpoint, they were unanimous in using the adjective “undemocratic” in their comments on the election. Following the outcome of the election, the EU imposed entry visa ban on Lukashenko and 30 high-ranking Belarussian officials who were accused of rigging the presidential election.
According to officially released figures, the opposition candidate Alexander Milinkevich received a piddling 6% of the votes. Meantime, independent sociologists say Mlinkevich received 20.6% of the votes. In light of the above, Oleg Manayev said that the public opinion result are in contradiction to the official statements with regard to Lukashenko’s widespread popular appeal with his fellow citizens. Despite a social basis for starting up changes, the authorities should not underestimate readiness of the Belarussian society to changes. At the same time, the opposition should not overestimate it either. “The growing public discontent in Belarus is largely caused by the activity of the authorities while the opposition and external factors play second fiddle under the circumstances,” said Manayev. There was a noticeable increase in the number of those who consider themselves mistreated by the regime. During the last year alone it increased by a third and currently stands at 36.5%.
The Independent Institute of Socioeconomic and Political Studies said earlier that Lukashenko had lost the 2004 referendum, and therefore had no right to run for the third term in office.
Meanwhile, the Belarussian opposition is not going to give up the fight. During his overseas trips Milinkevich predicts that the regime would fall in the near future. His comrades in arms say that toppling the dictatorial rule should take only a few hours. “Lukashenko is losing his grip on the electorate. No ‘velvet’ revolution lies in store for Belarus. On the contrary, Belarus is going to witness an instant revolution which should happen within several hours. I’m talking about the 21st century revolution, it can make all the people change their ways of thinking in a matter of hours. Then the people will start living in a brand-new state. They view the dictator as a piece of trash that needs to be thrown into a trash bin,” said Andrei Klimov, a former political prisoner and deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the 13th calling, in an interview to a press service. According to him, the opposition has been quite impressed by the activity of young people during the standoff in Minsk after the election. “Our successors are getting ready to play a key role in the fight for a new democratic Belarus and a new government that will be oriented to the integration into the EU. In fact, the young will come to power in this country to ensure civilized governance. The boys and girls who put up tents in Oktyabrskaya Square in Minsk a month ago do hate that bumpkin dictatorship. They really want to make it history,” said Klimov.
Translated by Guerman Grachev
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