Survive the elections, stay employed. An inside story
A young professional from a government company tells how campaigning and election process is organized in his institution and how it changes throughout the years.
I found him with help of my friends and it took 7 days to convince him to meet me. Now he is sitting in front of me, finally ready to talk, but he asks me for a favor which is hard to accomplish in Belarus – anonymity.
“What would happen if a head of your department knew you gave this interview?“ I ask.
“I’d be fired”, he answers.
It’s really hard to understand when it all began. Looks like it has always been this way. Since the first day he knew that free thinking is not welcomed it has just got worse. “How did your election adventure begin?” “A couple of years ago when I just started my job I had an offer to participate in election process as a polling-station official or as an observer”.
It’s not surprising. Every election pro-government organizations like “Belaya Rus” and Belarusian Republican Youth Union (BRSM) send observers to polling stations. In 2012 “Belaya Rus” had 707 accredited observers, while “BRSM” designated 615. Considering the fact that the number of polling stations at the parliament elections was 110, easy to count that pro-government organizations covered most likely every polling station in Belarus and after the voting they didn’t report any violations. Activists of these organizations also participate as polling-station officials.
“At that time I refused. I openly expressed my civil stance and was never asked about this again. Now they just know they would have problems with me. They already have enough problems with me”.
“Tell me how it was three years ago at parliament elections?”
“When I came to the company, the situation was different. We made profit, economic situation in the country was fine, no one was afraid to lose their jobs, because they would find something other. But 3 years on many things are changed. Top managment of the institution has been replaced and now the new people are not just loyal to the regime – they have become a part of the regime. “This year they ordered everyone to give a signature for Alexander Lukashenko. Everyone who refused got into some half-mythical list. Rumors has it that the company had a plan for 200 signatures. The good part is that they did not made 200 and had to go to the street and campaign there. Actually, that was the original plan – street campaigns, but soon headquarters realized that it would be easier to collect signatures from employees of the company. And even the better part is that people here intentionally refused to give a signature even when they had something to lose, especially these days. People who never cared about politics, people with children, people who would usually do it without a second thought, refused to give a signature”.
“Why did they do this?”
“The most common reason is that people are tired. Years go by and nothing gets better, nothing changes in a good way. You can get used to stability but you can’t get used to getting poorer and poorer, having less and less rights”.
“Well, some people got used to it”.
“Oh yeah, and it’s called a national Stockholm syndrome”, he laughs. “What do you think happens with this half-mythical list of people who refused?”
“I think heads of the departments see this list and throw it away. These people will not be fired or paid less, but also they can’t hope for bonuses. If you’re a 60-year old then you’re not going to get a contract for the next year, if you’re young professional like me who worked a couple of years for the company, you’ll never have a promotion. All the good clients will go to the “right” people. “Can you understand the decisions of the top management?”
“In some way, yes. They are trying to survive. Since our company doesn’t make profit, they completely depend on the government. They have families, children to feed. Probably they got used to some standard of life and they don’t want to give it up. I totally get it and being honest with you I don’t know what would I do in their place”.