At a press conference in Minsk on May 20 three Belarusian opposition structures – the movement “For Freedom”, the campaign “Tell the Truth!” and BPF Party (soon they were joined by BSDP “Gramada”) – stated they intended to hold a “people’s referendum”.
According to the Belarusian Constitution (Article 37), “Citizens of the Republic of Belarus have the right to participate in solving state affairs directly, as well as through independently elected representatives. Direct participation of the citizens in governing society’s and state’s affairs is secured through holding referendums, discussing draft laws and issues of republican and local significance”.
Republican referendums are set by the president (Article 74) on his own initiative, and at suggestion of the House of Representatives and the Council of the Republic, or on suggestion of no fewer than 450 thousand citizens having the right to vote. Attempts to organize referendums “from below” were made in Belarus more than once; however, all of them were harshly suppressed by “the state for the people”.
The majority of the country’s citizens (Table 1) support the idea of holding a referendum on correcting the development course of Belarus, including almost half of head of state’s supporters. It is most popular in the age-group of 40-50 year-olds – 62.3%, and least popular among those who are 60 and older – 40.5%. The level of education greatly influences the attitude to the referendum: the difference among Belarusians with primary and higher education is almost twofold – 34.4% vs. 63.6%.

Readiness to affix one’s signature in support of holding a referendum was declared by 57.5% of respondents (49.6% supporters and 67/3% opponents of A. Lukashenko), 32.7% declared against it and 9.8% found it difficult to answer.
Another 22% agreed to form part of the initiative group and help collect signatures in favor of the referendum (which is equivalent to a million and a half of Belarusian voters). At that political preferences of respondents did not virtually influence their readiness to collect signatures (20.8% among supporters and 23.3% among opponents of A. Lukashenko), which must be recognized as unexpected; 68.3% did not agree to do it, and 9.7% found it difficult to answer.
Under the conditions of the continuing economic crisis, issues connected with conducting an economic reform naturally ranked first according to their importance degree (Table 2). Then followed medical, educational and pension reforms testifying to the failures in the state’s social policy.

According to the official returns of the referendum held in November, 1996, 28.14% of the electors’ nominal roll voted in favor of the question “Do you support the idea that heads of the local administration should be elected directly by the residents of the corresponding administrative-territorial entity?”, and 69.92% – against. Mass refusal of Belarusians to elect local government authorities can be explained only by the specific character of the work of the Election Committee under the guidance of L. Ermoshina, appointed contrary to the Constitution working at that time. Today, however, the matter of direct election of towns’ heads (mayors) and regions’ heads (governors) ranks last in the priority list. Certainly, it does not mean that if the question concerning direct election of local administration heads were posed separately, an overwhelming majority of Belarusians would not declare “for” it (according to our opinion poll of December 2011, 72.8% of respondents agree with it, and only 17.1% do not).
Respondents did not attribute the question about the status of the Belarusian language to the top-priority ones, either. At that supporters of A. Lukashenko mentioned the importance of the given problem more often that his opponents (5.3% vs. 3.9%), which does not contradict the conclusion drawn by us while analyzing national identity.
Answering the question “Do you think, if political forces suggest holding a referendum on the country’s future and collect the necessary signatures, the authorities should agree to hold it?” two thirds of Belarusians said “yes” (62.5% – supporters and 83.6% – opponents of A. Lukashenko), 15.2% said “no” and 12.5% found it difficult to answer.
About half of Belarusians believe in the ability of the referendum to improve the situation in the country (Table 3). No principle differences in the opinions of supporters and opponents of A. Lukashenko have been revealed, which is quite unexpected. The respondents’ age does not influence the level of their optimism/pessimism, either. As for education, the optimism level of respondents with University diplomas proved to be appreciably higher than by respondents with primary education – 57.2% vs. 28%.

There is no doubt that authorities will act “in a usual way” at any attempt of the opposition parties and movements to initiate holding a Republican referendum. However, the data of the opinion poll show that the idea of a referendum on Belarus future development is popular in society. Such popularity can be regarded as an indicator of mass dissatisfaction of Belarusians with the socio-economic policy pursued by the authorities within the framework of the so-called “Belarusian development model”; as well as of penetration of this idea in the focus of public expectations.