Updated at 18:18,16-07-2018

Manaev: It is still early for the opposition to iron dress trousers

Klim Haletsky, UDF.BY

According to a recent poll of the Independent Institute of Socio-Economic Research (IISEPS) Lukashenka's rating has reached the historic minimum and amounted to 20,5%. Taking this figure out of context, the Belarusian opposition as well as the Belarusian authorities have decided to interpret it on their own way. For the former it turned out that Belarus is on the verge of revolution, while the latter was evidently so frightened, that they decided to detain the former head of IISEPS the professor Oleg Manaev.

In the interview to UDF.BY the doctor of sociology and professor of the Belarusian State University Oleg Manayev told why one should not rush to conclusion from the data of opinion polls, and made the forecast for the protest "temperature" of autumn.

- What are the main tendencies the last IISEPS poll has identified?

- The main tendency is a growing gap between official and actual pictures of the world and an increase in tension connected with it. Between people's mood and statements of the authorities is an abyss and it continues to deepen. And almost on every issue.

- Can you give specific examples?

- I will give 3 figures of the economy, politics and law. Firstly, 88% of respondents said that the Belarusian economy is in crisis. Despite this our brave officials continue to ignore this fact, and even the word "crisis" is replaced by ridiculous phrases like "temporary difficulties". Secondly, Lukashenka's rating has reached its historic minimum. Now it is 20.5%. This figure does not coincide with that of the research by governmental analysts, I don't even mention the election results. Thirdly, almost 54% of people said they didn't feel protected by the law, which also contradicts official statements on Belarus as the "clean, safe and secure" country.

- Can the existence of such a "gap" lead to political changes?

- Of course, now everybody are mostly interested in how close we are to the edge followed by a social explosion. It is difficult to reply explicitly ... On the one hand there is an increase in number of people who consider themselves being in the opposition: in December it was 18% and now 28%. On the other hand, as soon as we're not talking just about the moods of people, but about the readiness to take part in any protest actions, we see roughly the same figures as 15, 10 and 5 years ago. So, it is still early for the opposition to run with banners and to iron dress trousers.

- That is, we shouldn't wait for the revolution in autumn?

- The population has a political anxiety and irritation caused by the economic crisis. But for now we can talk about changing attitude, not about the real willingness to do something. Plus, it is obvious that the main reason for the growth of political discontent is a twofold drop in living standards. So, if the authorities manage to stabilize the economy quickly in two or three months, the situation will calm down and no revolution will happen.

- According to a recent IISEPS poll, despite the economic crisis and political repressions, the current president still has 24.5% of a public confidence. Can you sketch the portrait of a man who even now supports the regime?

- If you asked me this question 10 years ago, I would answer it simply and clearly. Now the situation is more complicated. On the one hand, Lukashenka is supported by a "lower" part of society: poorly educated rural population and pensioners. They are dependent mostly on the state, and their actions are guided by the past. This is the authentic Lukashenka's electorate from the mid 90s. The second part is more complicated. For 17 years of Lukashenka's rule the unique new class has formed. It consists of a state bureaucracy, security forces, new business leaders and managers of various state enterprises. So now, the state power maneuvers very tricky: de facto it acts for the sake of the second group, but in its demagoguery relies on the first.

- Also, your poll shows that 28.3% of the population identify themselves as the opposition. Can you similarly describe the socio-demographic portrait of the Belarusian oppositionist?

- Even now the backbone of the group are the people who always vote and voted "no". This is the classic core of the "dissent". Today, of course, they are added by up to 5% of the people who usually were on the other side. But so far, one cannot state the mass shift of the opposition's social basis.