Presidential election campaign of 2010 has started: initiative groups of 16 contenders, a half of which are staunch opponents of A. Lukashenko, are gathering signatures around the country. More and more articles describing and analyzing various aspects of this most important political process – financial and cadre resources of candidates, their programs and mutual relations, connections in the West and in the East, work biographies, characters and private life – appear in non-government mass media with every passing week. Frequent customers of the BY-net can look at the interior of their apartments, members of their families and even at their pets. Various forecasts which take into account everything – from funding sources to charisma – are being made on these grounds.

However, Belarusian electorate somehow “got lost” behind all this diversity or turned into a scarcely distinguishable “background” or “landscape”. It is actually present only in virtual reality, and virtually – in reality: several hundreds of the most active forum users, bloggers and the Live Journal (LJ) frequenters already have their favorite, who easily “steal thunder” from the incumbent (so far) president with a breakaway equaling 13 times! The elections results are in fact determined. The only thing that remains is to bring them to the notice of “the world public”, which is exactly being done at diplomatic receptions and in the interviews to foreign mass media. It strikingly reminds actions of the “experts at their trade” on the part of the authorities for whom the seven-million-strong Belarusian electorate is the same “landscape” on which the real policy is being pursued and real business is being done with the only difference that they are being pursued and done not at forums, blogs and the LJ, but rather in large offices and lobbies with carpet runners.

It turns out that no one needs the real electorate (which at times gets under everybody’s feet). What is going on in reality? Let us try to sort it out referring to the results of the opinion poll and return the voice of the people to the people themselves.

During three months the rating of the president has somewhat decreased (4.6 percentage points according to the close-ended question, and 6.6 points – to the open-ended one), and ratings of his opponents have grown (Tables 1-2). The biggest growth has occurred by V. Neklyaev (from 1.6% to 5.1%).

Table 1. Ratings of possible presidential contenders and their supporters’ readiness to participating in presidential election, %

Possible candidates

“Whom are you ready to vote for at the presidential elections, and whom won’t you vote for under any circumstances?”*

“Do you intend to participate in the forthcoming presidential election?”

I am ready to vote

I will not vote

I intend to participate (60.0)

I will make a decision depending on the political situation (25.6)

I will not participate (11.4)

S. Gaidukevich






Y. Glushakov






A. Kozulin






G. Kostusev






A. Lukashenko






A. Milinkevich






A. Mikhalevich






V. Neklyaev






Y. Romahchuk






V. Rymashevski






A. Sannikov






N. Statkevich






* The table is read across. Those who found it difficult to answer are excluded. The data according to the whole sample are given in brackets

Table 2. Distribution of answers to the question: “If presidential elections were being held in Belarus tomorrow, whom would you vote for?” (open question)

Variant of answer


A. Lukashenko


A. Milinkevich


S. Sidorsky


A. Kozulin


S. Gaidukevich


Z. Poznyak


V. Neklyaev


Another politician (15 surnames, less than 1% each)


A different answer




It is necessary to emphasize at once that one should give unconditional preference to the close-ended rating comparing the open-ended and the close-ended ones as candidates’ surnames are inherently present in the ballot papers and electors do not have to strain their memory as it happens during answering open-ended questions. Therefore “assessments and forecasts” of well-known politicians, analysts and journalists made recently according to the results of the Baltic Survey opinion poll were in substance political demagogy: they unanimously cited the comfortable for them figure of 33% according to the open-ended rating and also unanimously kept silent about the uncomfortable 44% of the closed-ended one.

These data indicate many things. An analysis shows that the “united” electoral body of eight opposition politicians who have registered their initiative groups in the CEC (i.e. those who are ready to vote today for Y. Glushakov, G. Kostusev, A. Mikhalevich, V. Neklyaev, Y. Romanchuk, V. Rymashevski, A. Sannikov or N. Statkevich) constitutes 20.2%. If we add to this the number of those ready to vote for all opposition politicians who have announced (or hinted at) their presidential ambitions and who are included into the interview form (S. Kalyakin, A. Kozulin, A. Milinkevich, Z. Poznyak, V. Frolov and A. Yaroshuk) we will get 26.9% and taking into account the electoral body of S. Gaidukevich (do not confuse the electoral body with the party members!) – 30.6%. As it follows from the aforesaid, the total number of the opposition electorate has not changed for the last decade and as before constitutes approximately 30%, i.e. about two million voters. For some people it is too few, for others – too many, but obviously these are not 100-150 thousand which “might support the opposition at the elections” according to A. Lukashenko’s recent statement.

It is also obvious that the “united” electorate of the eight opposition politicians, who have registered their initiative groups, is a lot behind the electoral body of their main opponent: 20.2% vs. 43.6% (the electorate of those who will not vote for these politicians under any circumstances makes up 68.6% and for A. Lukashenko – 33.7%). At the same time, the recent statement of A. Lukashenko (“I would like two thirds to vote for me – it is the constitutional majority and simultaneously an expression of the highest trust, somewhere between 70 and 75%”) does not correspond to the present situation and overstates the real figures by more than 20%, i.e. by one and a half million people.

The main motif of electoral preferences of Belarusians is as follows: “he possesses the real power and will be able to improve the situation in the country” and “he expresses the interests of such people as me” (Table 3). At that, if among those who are ready to vote today for A. Lukashenko the first motif was noted by 52.3% and the second – by 39.1% of respondents, then among those who are ready to vote for any of the eight opposition politicians – 10.9% and 27.6%.

Table 3. Distribution of answers to the question: (If at least one of the politicians has been named) “Why are you ready to vote for this politician?” (more than one answer is possible)

Variant of answer


He possesses the real power and will be able to improve the situation in the country


He expresses the interests of such people as me


I have liked this politicians for a long time


The majority of my acquaintances are inclined to support him






The question about readiness of voters to take part in the elections deserves special attention. As it can be seen from the data of Table 1, already today 60% are saying they will participate in them, other 25.6% will decide whether to participate in them or not “depending on the political situation” (previous experience shows the majority of them will go to the elections), and only 11.4% have declared they will not take part in them.

The majority of politicians, analysts and journalists use in their “layouts” direct figures of the opinion polls. For instance, if the president’s rating makes up 39% or even 43.6%, a resolute forecast about “the second round” is made. In truth it is a completely incorrect conclusion. First of all, one should count not of the general number of electors, but of the number of those who have really voted. It signifies that if, for example, attendance equals 75%, then the rating of 43.6% means 58.1% of those who have voted “for”. Under such attendance the victory of the incumbent president would be ensured in the first round, if the elections took place tomorrow. That is why the attendance question becomes very important for a forecast. Secondly, opposition leaders and activists calling for a boycott of the elections (and even some of them who are gathering signatures today declared they would do it in case of registration refusal) are “preparing a pitfall for themselves”. These tactics can be successful only under one condition – if less than a half of respondents come to the polling stations. However, all opinion polls without exception before all presidential elections in Belarus did not show readiness of electors lower than 60% even several months before the elections. Moreover, the simplest calculation shows that the fewer electors come to the polling stations, the larger percent the president will receive. Thus, under the appearance equaling 65%, the rating of 43.6% turns into 67% of those who vote “for”, whereas under the appearance of 85% – only 51.3%. Besides, the president’s electorate usually goes to the elections “row upon rows”, and his opponents’ electoral body intrinsically hesitates between voting and a boycott. E.g., if among those who are ready to vote for A. Lukashenko 78.5% are going to participate in the elections, then among those who are ready to vote, for instance, for V. Neklyaev, there are only 51.9% of such people, for G. Kostusev – 44.7%. On the whole, among those who declare already today that they will take part in the elections, 51.7% are ready to vote for A. Lukashenko, and for all his opponents put together – less than 2%. Therefore any talks about a boycott of the presidential elections in Belarusian reality are not only disputable, but simply insane tactics which guarantee the opposition an overwhelming defeat at the elections, as well as the loss of authority for a long time after them.

The split of the Belarusian society according to political values, which analysts of the IISEPS have been writing about for over 13 years already, is also observed according to how people see the future president of Belarus (Table 4).

Table 4. Distribution of answers to the question: “What kind of person should the future president of Belarus be?”

Variant of answer


A supporter of the present-day policy cardinal change


A supporter of the present-day policy continuation


It does not matter




A supporter of further rapprochement with the European Union


A supporter of further integration with Russia


It does not matter




A supporter of market economy


A supporter of planned economy


It does not matter




A supporter of powers separation


A supporter of presidential power consolidation


It does not matter




However, in spite of a rather democratic character of these expectations, it is going to be difficult for opposition candidates to “try them on”. First of all, due to the fact that 53.3% of respondents have no information about candidates and consider TV (25%), access to which is strictly controlled by the authorities, the main source of obtaining it (the Internet – 10%). Secondly, there are also adherents of these values among those who are going to vote for the incumbent president: almost 10% of them are sure that he is able to cardinally change the present policy, 14% consider him a supporter of powers separation, 15.6% – of rapprochement with the European Union, 41.3% – of market economy. And vice versa, among those who are ready to vote for an opposition candidate, 17.6% are supporters of presidential power consolidation, 15.6% – of the present-day policy continuation, 11.4% – of further integration with Russia. Thirdly, as it has been already mentioned above, the president’s electorate usually goes to the elections “row upon rows” as opposed to the electoral body of his opponents. Thus, among the 60% of those who are announcing their participation in the elections already today, 50.9% are going to vote for a supporter of the present-day policy continuation (for a supporter of the policy cardinal change – 34%), and among the 11.4% of those who have declared their nonparticipation in the elections, the ratio of these figures is 12.1% vs. 59.2%. In the first group 32.8% support an advocate of further integration with Russia (a supporter of rapprochement with the European Union – 34.1%), in the second group the ratio of these figures is 11.5% vs. 46.6%. In the first group 38.4% support an adherent of presidential power consolidation (37.2% come out for a supporter of powers separation), and in the second one the ration of these figures is 11.5% vs. 51.7%. It is obvious that a considerable share of the democratic electorate has already “copped out”. Fourthly, party identification of some candidates can “scare away” even supporters of democratic values, since less than 15% of respondents trust the opposition political parties, and 60% do not trust them.

In the context of all the peculiarities of the Belarusian “electoral landscape”, consolidation of the potential electorate becomes almost the main success factor of democratic forces. As it follows from Table 1 opposition contenders’ ratings are small so far, but theoretically they can grow up to nearly 30%. A similar precedent has already happened before: during half a year – from the middle of September, 2005 to the middle of March, 2006 A. Milinkevich’s rating grew from 2% to 20%. The problem is that the aforementioned “united electorate” equaling 26.9% is composed of the electors ready to vote for a democratic candidate in this or that combination: someone only for a single candidate, and someone – for several of them. There are less than 2% of those who are ready to give their votes to any out of a dozen of the opposition candidates. It means that consolidation of candidates themselves is a precondition for possible consolidation of electorates. A. Milinkevich’s rating grew 10 times before the previous presidential elections exactly due to the fact that he had become the only candidate in the eyes of the majority of the democratic electorate. Unsuccessful experience of determining a “single” candidate in 2010 has already become the talk of the town; as a result even the 20.2% potential of the gathering signatures “democratic group of eight” is divided into “small portions” from 1% to 5.1%. Are they able to unite around one of them in case he manages to collect the necessary number of signatures? In the opinion of the majority of experts, there are virtually no chances of it. Support of the above mentioned politicians who did not go to the elections on account of various reasons, especially of A. Milinkevich and A. Kozulin, whose “united rating” constitutes 8.8% can give additional rating percentage. Whoever becomes the leader among democrats in the process of collecting signatures, he might fight for the “Spanish Succession” (“the War of the Spanish Succession” was the most sanguinary one in Europe at the beginning of the XVIII century). At the moment A. Milinkevich is in G. Kostusev’s team. However, will he be able to call upon his supporters to vote for V. Neklyaev or Y. Romanchuk in case the candidate of the BPF “withdraws from the race”? Why has not A. Kozulin supported anyone openly? These questions are rhetorical. In addition, it may not be true that even if all the opposition leaders call upon their adherents to support “the single” candidate, the appeal will be heard and supported. First of all, they do not have any direct and effective communication with their supporters. Secondly, even if the appeal reaches the supporters, hardly all of them will follow it. Consolidation of politicians is not yet consolidation of their electorates; however, it could undoubtedly influence their potential supporters.

Many people would say: if the rating equaling 20-25% is the upper limit even in the best case, what is the point in fighting for it – it yields the rating of the main contender two times anyway? In reality there is a lot of sense in it: a candidate who receives a million and a half votes even if it is not according to the data of the CEC (information in Belarus spreads quickly), will get the “trust mandate” which might become an extremely important condition of a new and possibly quite real and not virtual game in the impetuously changing geopolitical situation after the elections.