16 January 2018, Tuesday, 12:42

«Social science» in dictatorship

The IISEPS recent data caused a scandal: can the numbers be trusted?

The Independent Institute of Socio-Economic and Political Studies (IISEPS) headed by Aleg Manaieu published the results of another poll. A blue link to the “sensational results of the post-elections poll” is flashing on www.iiseps.org. Clearly, according to the authors, the sensation is their data of the Belarusians’ activity at the recent “elections” (the entire country – 66%, regional centers – 72%).

The website charter97.org asked a number of public persons to comment on the IISEPS data.

One of the founders of the BPF party, professor Yury Khadyka (Minsk):

- I was at the voting station where only 30% of people had voted. We observed all the stages: pre-term voting, home voting; we included everyone who came to vote on the voting day. Moreover, the boycott action was not that large-scale there. But it is another question – all boycott supporters should have informed about the boycott and its possible forms more actively. Nevertheless, in Minsk (and not only at the station that I observed) the average activity didn’t surpass 30-35%. But the IISEPS gives 44%. This is their old mistake. They don’t take into account the fear our people feel when independent social scientists approach them and ask stupid questions: ”How did you vote – for or against Lukashenka?” The fear is a very important problem. It is tough to learn to ask questions that don’t scare respondents. But the IISEPS are very outspoken in their questions, and they are so proud of their big charts.

- According to the IISEPS, 49% of voters have read the candidates’ programs…

- The very questions give no room for an answer. What programs? There were no programs! And once again, the question ”Have you read?” leads to the answer ”Yes, I have”. Otherwise you can appear to be Lukashenka’s enemy. So the fear factor can be a strong impact here.

- 41% of respondents said that they know their deputy. How can you comment on this number?

- They said so to avoid risks, otherwise they can be considered oppositionists. Nobody wants to be an oppositionist, because this may cause problems at work or at school.

One of the leaders of Belaruski Rukh Viktar Ivashkievich (Minsk):

- The only thing I can tell is that these numbers differ from what our observers have got. Or maybe Manaieu accuses our observers of unfair count?... There is another aspect: people are scared to tell the truth, they are scared of repressions. People are suspicious about political polls.

Opposition activist Valiantsina Sviatskaia (Minsk):

- Fairy tales and nonsense. I can say from my personal experience that 29% of the registered voters came to my election station, and 25% - to the nearest station.

- I’m not trying to accuse the IISEPS of not doing their job properly. I’m not saying that now they are trying to explain the preliminary poll and its results. I believe that they have faced a serious problem, and have been warned. If it is a deliberate mistake, let them be responsible for that. If it is an arithmetic problem, they should stop inventing absurd methods. But I feel that they have done a poor job and now are trying to find excuse and show that the results are correct. The number in the previous poll was 53%. And how did they get a completely different number in the new poll? I repeat: if it is an arithmetic mistake, they should get their F and go back to school. But if they did this on purpose… They have to serve their masters.

Opposition activist Siargei Mudrachenka (Minsk):

- The IISEPS data always give food for thought and argument. There can be a discussion around a subjective criterion: popularity of Lukashenka, political parties, politicians. But we’ve got a rear opportunity to check the poll results, since the observers did an excellent job “counting the livestock”, as Vintsuk Viachorka has wittily remarked. Even if they might have faked 44% for Minsk… For example, in some parts of the Sierabranka district, where the boycott agitation hadn’t reached, the observers counted 40-44% (the nearby voting stations got 10% less visitors after the boycott promotion). One can speculate, but only about the score that the boycott supporters won with (56:44 or 70:30).

But let’s consider more eloquent data: allegedly 72% of voters came to voting stations in regional centers, and 60% of them - on 23 September. A simple calculation shows that, for example, compared to Minsk, 28% more voters came to the voting stations in Gomel! Let’s assume that the electoral commission registers 2000 voters on average; 1200 come on the voting day (2000*0,6); the voting lasts 12 hours (between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.). It means that 100 (!) voters come every hour – or 17 every minute! You can only see that movement and queue in front of a church on the Twelfth Day. I just want to ask Gomel residents to show pictures of these fantastic queues!

Let’s dwell deeper into this masterpiece of social science: 49% of respondents have read, heard and seen the candidates’ programs? That’s funny. 41% know the surname of the “deputy”? I’m laughing hysterically. Well, it must be true. A random Belarusian taken by surprise says – just to be on the safe side – that he or she has voted in the ”elections”; and then they just have to go on with the story: ”Well, yes, I’ve read the program”; and then they have to admit that they know the “deputy”… But enough with jokes. I must say that the IISEPS methods are obviously incorrect. They should probably take into consideration a fear factor of 0,8-0,85. Gunners consider speed and direction of wind in their calculations. And the wind of dictatorship is violent and dank…

Activist of the United Civil Party Vasil Paliakou (Gomel):

- Actually in Gomel, at the voting stations without student hostels, there came not more than 29-35% voters.

Social science doesn’t work in an isolated authoritarian society. So it is not entirely correct to speak about a completed poll and its results. People don’t always give honest answers; they think about the consequences of admitting that they hadn’t voted. But the numbers from the voting stations are correct; I have personally controlled all these numbers. I visited every voting station and I saw our observers there, watching and counting. What we’re dealing with here is just an occasional question answered by an occasional respondent. I believe that if the people really responded this way, it is simply because nobody cares about these so-called elections. And the people said they know deputies and read programs just to justify themselves, while in reality, it is just not true.

- How many voting stations did you observe?

- I worked in the 34th electoral region that includes 33 stations, and we observed 28 stations. Moreover, “Human Rights Activists for Free Elections” observed 4 other stations. We had no deviations in numbers. The thing is that the “parliamentary elections” are in fact 110 so-called elections, because every electoral district has its own elections for a specific candidate. And we cannot say that the national elections have been successful, we can talk only about a particular district. I can assert that the elections failed in the 34th station of Gomel. The voting may have been successful in a remote village. But in Gomel, the elections failed.