To say the least, it has been a turbulent summer in Belarus. An election campaign that saw unprecedented popular mobilization against President Aleksandr Lukashenko, in power since 1994, spurred mass protest after a vote marred by pervasive fraud delivered him victory with an implausible 80% of the vote. Brutal treatment of protestors by the regime only further mobilized Belarusians, who continue to turn out against Lukashenko daily. And yet, president Lukashenko seems in no rush to make concessions, counting on the support of security forces and courting Russia to keep himself in power.
There are several notable aspects to the protests that deserve note. Beyond the fact Belarus is seeing a popular democratic movement that would not have been out of place in 1990, women have played a critical role. The wives of three prominent opposition leaders coalesced behind Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who gained remarkable support with a simple political platform: she would oversee fair elections and secure the release of political prisoners. Women have led the way in protests since the election, too. Lastly, Lukashenko’s predicament raises the specter of Russian intervention in another neighboring country, at his behest or otherwise.
During the last week of August, Premise asked contributors in Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania their views on the current events. A total of 713 responses were collected across the three countries, revealing valuable insights about local attitudes. We were also able to capture images from a solidarity rally in Vilnius, Lithuania, on August 23rd.
Keeping Up with the Belarusians
Some 88% of respondents indicated they are either very closely or somewhat closely following the ongoing events in Belarus, a pattern that did not significantly vary by country:
Though a plurality of respondents were tuned into Belarusian politics prior to the presidential vote, fraud allegations seemed to be the key trigger for the neighbors’ attention. Indeed, nearly 83% of respondents reported they were following events before security forces began their violent repression of the protests:
Social media and television appear to be the most popular news sources among respondents:
But Who do the Neighbors Support?
Though survey results revealed several notable, if not surprising regional nuances, a majority of respondents agreed on two points: they are sympathetic toward the protest movement and worried about the prospect of Russian intervention:
There was more divergence in views regarding Lukashenko and Tsikhanouskaya. On aggregate, the latter remains not well known, with a plurality of respondents having no strong opinion toward her. Meanwhile, Lukashenko is a more polarizing figure, with large segments of respondents holding both favorable and unfavorable views of him:
That said, there is a clear regional dynamic at play here. The results in Poland and Lithuania paint a radically different picture. While Tsikhanouskaya has a lot more sympathy in the countries above, she still remains a relatively unknown figure.
The data collected reveals broad interest among neighboring countries in the ongoing events in Belarus, sympathy toward the protest movement, and worries about Russian intervention. With Premise’s global network of over 2M+ contributors, it’s easier than ever to gain global real-time insight and monitor sentiment around current events.
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Data Source: Premise Data “Protests in Belarus,” Aug. 18-31, 2020