Are opinion polls possible in Belarus?

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Independent Institute of Socio-Economicе and Politicial Studies (IISEPS) has published the returns of the June 2013 national polls, showing that Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu enjoys the highest closed rating among opposition leaders. Mr Nyaklyaeu reckons this will not help him become a single candidate of the unified opposition:

"It is logical to assume that the one with the majority of vote becomes the first. But as soon as I declare it, reproaches will follow immediately not evet at me but at those who carried out the poll."

According to the reserch results by Aleh Manayeu who runs IISEPS, Lukashenka has almost 41% in closed ratings. The first among the opposition leaders is Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu (Speak the Truth! campaign) with 9.5% followed by European Belarus' Andrei Sannikau (6%) and Movement for Freedom's Aliaksandr Milinkevich(6%). The long-standing resident of opposition circles Anatol Lyabedzka of United Civil Party surprisingly picked very little - just 1.5%. Even Nash Dom chairman Volha Karach got 0.2% more, given that she is a newcomer in politics.

Apart from expected and unexpected ratings in the research by Mr Manayeu, the poll has revealed improved attitudes of Belarusians towards Russia, an increase of optimism and real income growth. On the other hand, Belarusians' attitiude towards the government is not positive, according to Mr Manayeu. People treat government officials as 'aliens'.

The comment by Uladzimir Nyakyaeu was made on July 10. On July 16, his prediction came true when speaking at a conference at Warsaw University, Stanislau Shushkevich not only doubted the results of Aleh Manayeu's survey but called him a 'traitor'.

"As for certain sociologists, I will say bluntly: Manayeu is a traitor. And you, Professor Vardamatski, know it perfectly well. There can be no proper sociology in Belarusian conditions," said emotional Shushkevich to another independent sociologist Andrei Vardamatski.

He said that despite the fact that Shushkevich, according to the research by Manayeu, enojys quite a high rating - almost 4%. He only trails the aforementioned Nyaklyaeu, Sannikau and Milinkevich.

Euroradio has asked Andrei Vardamatski to comment on the situation and share his view on whether no public opinion polls are possible in Belarus. The sociologist admits the situation in Belarus is specific, but that does not mean sociologists should remain idle.

"There are specifics of socialogical field in Belarus. But this does not mean it is not possible to carry out sociological surveys and they do not reflect anything."

According to Vardamatski, sociologists use a number of coefficients that allow to take any specifics into account and adjust the returns of polls. Sociologists use them not only in Belarus but in other countries of the world abroad. The number received may be liked or disliked by anyone but these numbers are trust-worthy, adds Vardamatski.