Results of electoral polls in Belarus typically reveal a huge gap between open and closed ratings of all politicians except A. Lukashenko. At a time when an election is a long-term perspective, open ratings of president’s opponents make 2-5%. This is the number of respondents who pick up the appropriate politician when asked “For whom would you vote at the presidential election in Belarus?” When a respondent can choose the candidate he/she likes from a given list or from a couple А. Lukashenko vs. John Doe, ratings of opposition candidates jump up to 10-15%. Thus, during the election campaign in December of 2006, in an open question 6.6% of respondents gave their preference to A. Milinkevich and choosing from the pair A. Lukashenko vs. A. Milinkevich 18.1% of respondents spoke out in favor of the opposition candidate.

We think the reason of such a gap is hardly ignorance of the names of alternative politicians (a respondent is not likely to pick up an unknown name even from the list of a closed question) but rather electorates of opposition candidates which are non-consolidated. When a question requires think effort from a respondent – remembering and writing down into the questionnaire the name of a preferred politician – the number of adherents turns sharply fewer.

On the other hand, closed and pair ratings reveal potentially accessible electorate of a politician. If a voter is ready to give preference to a politician in a question worded in one way, it is possible to assume that certain efforts of this candidate can win this voter into the team of his constant supporters and he/she will make choice in his favor in the question on preferred presidential candidates worded in any form.

In the February-2006 opinion poll, answers to the open question about the candidate a respondent would vote for were distributed in the following way: S. Gaidukevich – 4.3%, A. Kozulin – 5.2%, A. Lukashenko – 57.6% and A. Milinkevich – 15.4%. Answering to this question, respondents could write down the name of any politician, but all the other political figures except the four mentioned above received under 0.3% each. In a closed question when respondents were asked to choose between the four registered presidential candidates, we got the following results: S. Gaidukevich – 4.5%, A. Kozulin – 6.4%, A. Lukashenko – 58.6% and A. Milinkevich – 16.5%. As one can see, the results of open and closed ratings are almost the same. In other words, this is the initial consolidation of candidates’ electorates which has taken place; candidates without much effort attracted to their sides those who were potentially ready to support them.

Data in Table 3 is another proof of the fact that consolidation of electorates has really taken place.

There are several points in Table 1 which we should like to give more attention. First, an overwhelming majority of the polled (nearly 90%) have taken sides (at least, they said they have) in the major choice – voting for A. Lukashenko or for his rival. In the previous opinion polls, the part of those who declined to answer this question was over 25%.

Table 1. Relation between preferences given to a candidate and answers to the question “If only one candidates competes with A. Lukashenko, will you vote for him or for A. Lukashenko?”*, %

Variant of answer

Ready to vote for:

S. Gaidukevich (4.5)

A. Kozulin (6.4)

А. Lukashenko (58.6)

А. Milinkevich (16.5)

For an alternative candidate (30.6)





For A. Lukashenko (58.9)





DA/NA (10.5)





* Table is read across

Second, previously a great part of those who were ready to vote for an alternative candidate didn’t give preference to any particular alternative, to any real opposition figure in Belarus. It’s like A. Pushkin’s character Tatiana said: “The soul waited for someone.” Now, an overwhelming majority of those ready to vote for the alternative has waited till the alternative got its face – almost 80% of them are ready to vote for S. Gaidukevich, A. Kozulin or A. Milinkevich.

Third, the current president is still given preference in the group of those who haven’t yet taken sides in the major choice.

Finally, answers of A. Lukashenko’s supporters are more coordinated – they give preference to the chosen candidate both in the situation of a major choice “for-against” and when choosing from the four candidates. It follows from this that very hard efforts should be taken to make them change their position now.

Table 2 shows the number of convinced supporters in each candidate’s electorate.

Table 2. Relation between preferences given to a candidate and answers to the question “Are you absolutely confident in your choice of presidential candidate or you may still change your mind?”, %

Variant of answer

Ready to vote for:

S. Gaidukevich (4.5)

A. Kozulin (6.4)

А. Lukashenko (58.6)

А. Milinkevich (16.5)

Absolutely confident (57.3)





May still change my mind (26.1)





In accordance with Table 2, there are opportunities to increase popularity of alternative candidates but they are very narrow. The greatest part of voters both among the polled in general and within separate electorates of candidates have already taken sides. For example, A. Lukashenko’s supporters who are firmly certain of their choice make 0.591х0.586=34.6% of the general number of respondents. A. Milinkevich’s electorate demonstrates the highest loyalty to their chosen leader but a number of his supporters and particularly S. Gaidukevich’s and A. Kozulin’s supporters admit that they may turn away from their candidates.

Withdrawal of a candidate in favor of another candidate is unreal at the current stage of the election campaign. However, both politicians and publicists continue the old debate – if consolidation of the opposition is a necessary condition of success. Adherents of this opinion claim that in the “or-or” situation the opposition will be able to win over the authorities like the current ones and that nomination of a sole candidate representing a real alternative will have a multiplicity effect, i.e. this will attract to his side not only supporters of the opposition candidates who withdrew in favor of another candidate but as well the voters who wouldn’t vote for any of the opposition figures running independently.

Opponents of this opinion argue that electorates of particular opposition candidates – A. Kozulin and A. Milinkevich – are markedly different and cannot join one another; this is why withdrawal of one of them in favor of the other will not ensure rating growth of the latter.

Data of the February opinion poll which asked about voting for one of the three candidates may serve an argument in this dispute. In the three ‘without A. Kozulin’ the votes are distributed in the following way: for S. Gaidukevich – 4.9%, for A. Lukashenko – 57.9%, for A. Milinkevich – 21.1%. In the three ‘S. Gaidukevich – A. Lukashenko – A. Kozulin’ the votes are distributed as 7.2%-58.5%-12.8% respectively. This proves that withdrawal of an opposition candidate does increase the rating of his partner: A. Kozulin – from 6.4% to 12.8% and A. Milinkevich – from 16.5% to 21.1%. However, this new rating of the sole candidate is lower than the sum of both candidates’ original ratings – 6.4+16.5=22.9%. What’s more, A. Milinkevich gets almost the entire sum if he remains alone while A. Kozulin gets slightly over a half of the original sum.

The February poll was completed right before candidates’ speaking on TV, and so the hottest moments of the canvassing are not reflected in its results. These new factors might greatly influence the opinions of voters. Even those voters who in February were absolutely convinced of their choice couldn’t know how TV performances of the candidates and their meetings with voters would influence their decisions.

This or that way, the above data demonstrates that the primary consolidation of electorates has taken place by the mid-February. Also, the group of vacillating, or those who haven’t taken sides yet, has dissolved to a great extent. In other words, all the candidates, including current president, can increase the number of their supporters only from the group of ‘alien’ voters whom they should not persuade but over-persuade to change their mind.