The press has many times published IISEPS’s survey findings, according to which A. Lukashenko’s rating, i.e. electorate’s readiness to give their votes for him at the next presidential election, dropped down from 46% in October of 2001 to 30.9% in April and 27% in September, though slightly grew to 30.5% in December of 2002. At present the number of those who would vote for the president is 26.2%. Despite marginal vacillations, the negative tendency is obvious. To exclude any discrepancies, a more simple and transparent question was included into the opinion poll: “Do you think in general A. Lukashenko quite well governs the country and he should be again elected president in the upcoming election or another candidate should take this post (receive an opportunity to do this better than him)?” 23.2% of the respondents chose the variant “elect A. Lukashenko anew”, 64.1% – the variant “another candidate should take this post” and 12.7% found it difficult to answer. Answering to the question “If there were a referendum to change the Constitution of Belarus to allow A. Lukashenko be elected president anew, how would you vote?”, 17.1% of the respondents said they “Would vote for such amendment to the Constitution”, 47% said – “Would vote against”, 27.5% – “Do not know yet, will judge by circumstances” and 8.4% – “Wouldn’t take part in such referendum”. As we can see, president’s support within the society steadily goes down. However, to make prognosis and develop certain strategies it is necessary to know not only the dynamics of the process but also its internal structure, peculiarities and reasons. Let’s try to consider them.

The fist conclusion one would drive to while analyzing the latest data is that some fundamental changes are taking place in the internal structure of the presidential electorate. Thus, presently most of the voters that cast their votes for A. Lukashenko at the election of 2001 believe “another candidate should take the post” (Table 1).

Table 1. Determination to elect A. Lukashenko or another candidate at the next presidential election depending on how they voted at the 2001election*, %

* The table is read across

We emphasize that these are not president’s opponents or those hesitating this time but those who 1.5 years ago deliberately voted for A. Lukashenko and pinned their hopes for changes to better life with A. Lukashenko.
As Table 2 demonstrates, such traditional social factors like gender, income, place of living, belief, etc. previously greatly dividing Belarusian electorate into the president’s opponents and supporters has lost their differentiating character. In other words, most of men and women, well-to-do and poor, those living in the capital and in small towns, in western or eastern regions, most Orthodox and Catholics claim their readiness to nowadays vote for another presidential contender. This means they are dissatisfied with the current political course. The changes are especially evident among pensioners – “last resort” of A. Lukashenko: only every second of them (51.7%) shows readiness to vote for his past hero and every third (34.1%) believes “another candidate should take his post”.

Table 2. Sociological portrait of A. Lukashenko’s supporters and opponents, %

Characteristic features of electorate’s sociological portrait
Elect again A. Lukashenko (23.2)
Another candidate should take the post (64.1)
Has your financial position changed over the past three months?
Has improved
Has not changed
Has deteriorated
What concerns you the most in the country’s development?
Increase in tariffs for public utilities
Increase in prices for staples
Lukashenko have recently accused the government of “having picked citizens’ pockets without putting anything into them”. Some agree with this, others claim he is responsible himself as the government only follows his instructions. What is your opinion?
Government is responsible
President is responsible
How will socio-economic situation in Belarus change in the coming years?
Will improve
Will not change
Will deteriorate
To which extent are you satisfied with the development of democracy in Belarus?
Fully/rather satisfied
Rather/absolutely dissatisfied
Are the human rights observed in Belarus?
Yes/rather yes
Rather no/no
Are you satisfied with the results of the recent election to the local Councils of deputies?
Did Belarus or Russia achieve greater progress in building democratic states and civil societies?
If tomorrow we had a referendum on Belarus’ joining the EU, how would you vote?
Would you like to move to another country for permanent residence?
Wouldn’t like to move anywhere
Your age
Under 30
50 +
Your education
Elementary/ incomplete secondary
Secondary vocational/higher
Social status
Employee of the public sector
Employee of the private sector
Another extremely important change, about which we have many times written, is “refocusing” of electorate’s integration views from the Belarusian president to the Russian president (Tables 3 and 4).

Table 3. Determination to elect A. Lukashenko or another candidate at the next presidential election depending on the attitude to Russia-Belarus Union*, %

Attitude to Russia-Belarus integration
Elect again A. Lukashenko
Another candidate should take the post
Belarus and Russia should become a single state
Relations between Belarus and Russia should resemble those between other CIS member-states

* Tables 3-5 are read across

Table 4. Determination to elect A. Lukashenko or another candidate at the next presidential election depending on the determination to vote for Russia-Belarus president at a hypothetical referendum in 2004, %

Furthermore, the pro-European standpoints penetrate deeper into the presidential electorate: there is a dominating number of those who would vote for Belarus’ joining the European Union in this stratum. They no more support the anti-Western politics of their hero. This means A. Lukashenko is losing the most powerful political instrument of influence on his electorate.
The second important conclusion is the quality changes have been found among those who claim their readiness to change the president. Beside the traditional indicator that is a mostly young, educated and economically active part of the society with pro-market and pro-Europeans views, there is a new one. Nowadays, this is not the youth but the voters at the age from 30 to 50 – driving social force of any society – that prevail in this electorate. Mobility plays an important role as well. Those who have in the past years visited the neighboring countries (including Russia, and this is every second Belarusian), let alone other foreign countries, air their deep willingness to change the authorities (“it turns out all neighbors live better than we do!”). The fewer perspectives of such changes the Belarusians can see, the more they think of emigrating: over half of those ready to change the president are also ready to change the country of residence. It is traditionally considered that the main reason of recession in support of the current course is the decline in the living standard and narrowing of the living perspectives. These reasons still remain the major (almost half of those ready for changing the president claim their financial position has deteriorated for the past quarter and 87.9% expect no changes to better living under the current authorities!), yet new reasons have arisen.
Over 80% of the voters ready for an alternative are discontent with the development of democracy and human rights observation in Belarus. The issues that are, from the viewpoints of the authorities, affected with only the interests of the “political frauds” are a matter of concern of about 4m voters, i.e. over half of the Belarusian electorate! The traditional methods of “passing the buck” to others – the opposition, the West or even the government – do not bring the earlier results.
As for the strengthening pressure of the power over society – political, economic, informational and legal (or, better say illegal), it has had, according to the analysis, the adverse results (See Table 5).

Table 5. Determination to elect A. Lukashenko or another candidate at the next presidential election depending on the Belarusians’ readiness to express their political standpoints, %

Reasonings of authorities were very plain: scared people will keep silence. And judging by the scale of street marches that dropped down from dozens of thousands during the Chernobyl track in 1996 to several thousands during the recent “Independence Day”, the strategy appeared to be right. This is why all demands of the foreign countries on restoring the climate of political confidence in the country are momentarily denied as “interference into our home affairs”. However, the Table 5 clearly indicates that the more people are afraid of the authorities, the more they are inclined to have them changed. The point is so far these views haven’t sprung up into the beloved by the opposition street actions. But penetrating into the depth of a socium, they increase the chances for changing authorities through election: according to the counting of votes, two thirds of the voters took part in the March election despite the fact that 80% of them consider that the local Councils do not affect their lives at all or affect insignificantly.
The third conclusion is that the “Russian factor” now takes an important part in the transformation of the Belarusian electorate. As it has already been mentioned, the integration viewpoints of the Belarusians are no more related to A. Lukashenko and his politics. At present, Russia’s President V. Putin has become… an alternative figure for the millions of voters in our country. As it is seen from Table 3, almost 90% of the Belarusians saying they would vote for V. Putin as Russia’s president in case Belarus and Russia incorporate into a single state (they are 42.2% nowadays, i.e. over three millions voters) at the same time believe “another candidate should take the post” of A. Lukashenko! This truly unique phenomenon for the modern politics can be probably grounded by not only the attractive character of V. Putin’s politics and his very personality but, first of all, by absence of tolerable alternative figure in Belarus. Due to this reason expectation of changes for better life, of worthy and honest living is mostly focused on the figure of the Russian president. This means at present V. Putin has a tremendous potential of influence on Belarus, not via “official instruments” but directly through the Belarusian electorate.
Yet, this potential can, in our opinion, be effectively used only in two cases. First, if V. Putin’s actions towards Belarus will meet these expectations, that is promote worthy and honest living of the Belarusians. Second, if these actions take place in real politics. If he confines himself to making statements directed to “reeducation of the younger brother” only or solving Russia’s problems at our expense, the might-have-been expectations of the Belarusians will switch to another alternative figure (in Belarus or in the West) and V. Putin will lose this potential. It is unlikely to remain for years but will hardly dissolve within a few months, so it will most probably remain for at least a year.
As for the strategy of the democratic forces possibly developed on the basis of new tendencies in the transformation of the Belarusian electorate, this is another topic for discussion. We’ll only note here that among the voters consent to an alternative, there are five times (!) more of those who know a “candidate able to successfully compete with A. Lukashenko” than of those who are ready to vote again for their earlier hero.
In the analytical material of the IISEPS “At the filmy ice” published in August of 1997, a sociological portrait of the Belarusian electorate was finished with the words: “Figuratively speaking, the presidential electorate that three years ago seemed a glaring and powerful ice field where a skillful figure skater might produce incredible pirouettes is still glaring but at the very bottom of the ice layer there is a steady process of washing out. When the ice breaks, no dances on the ice-floe will be possible; it will take the skater to where the stream goes.” (“BDG”, No.398). Results of the latest research clearly demonstrate that: for the time after the election of 2001 not simply A. Lukashenko’s rating dropped down but the tectonic shifts have started appearing in the Belarusian electorate. The ice has at last begun to break. Where will the stream run? The answer to this question depends on the adequate activity of all forces interested in the democratic changes in Belarus.