Today the issue of the third presidential term for A. Lukashenko can be compared to a time-bomb. All people know it is planted (there is a constitutional norm which does not allow to be elected the president for more than two consecutive times) and sooner or later it must blow up (practically all policymakers are certain: there are few chances that in the current situation A. Lukashenko will voluntarily quit). Differences in estimations of the situation limit only to technical questions – when and how the project “the third term” will be realized.

At present, more often there are two opinions on this issue. The first is like follows – the president has already made up his mind to run for presidency for the third time and now he is looking for the most convenient time to realize the repeatedly and publicly voiced scenario – a referendum to abolish the given constitutional norm and then a new presidential election. The second opinion is boiled down to the following: so far the head of state has not made up his mind, everything will depend on the correlation of a number of common factors – positions of Russia and the West as well as moods of the nomenclature and common voters.
As for outside factors, everything is more or less clear. The West is unlikely to support this project. Russia’s official stance on the issue has not been made clear yet. However, taking into account numerous information leakage from the Kremlin administration and the nature of the relations between V. Putin and A. Lukashenko, we can suppose that today the possibility of Moscow’s negative reaction is higher than positive one.
The overwhelming majority of the Belarusian nomenclature is dissatisfied with the present regime, because it does not allow it to realize its interests, first of all property interests. According to IISEPS data, the nomenclature does not want A. Lukashenko to remain the president for another term (in case the constitutional norm is abolished – for uncertain period). But during a possible referendum and an election its behavior will in many respects be determined by moods of common voters. Today they are like follows.
The number of the respondents who believe that Belarus develops in a wrong direction (54.0%) is twofold higher than the number of those who think in the opposite (26.6%). Over the last three months the number of respondents who gave no definite answer to the question has dropped by 10 points. In fact, both points of view are equally popular.
A similar picture can be revealed if we look at the dynamics of major indicators of the population’s attitude to A. Lukashenko.(See Table 1).

Table 1. Dynamics of major indexes of attitude to A. Lukashenko, %

Indexes of attitude
Would have voted for A. Lukashenko at a new presidential election (open rating)
Would have voted for A. Lukashenko at an election of Belarus-Russia president
Trust the president
Consider A. Lukashenko an ideal politician
The rise in positive estimation of the head of state levels at 2-5%. The number of those who are rather dissatisfied with A. Lukashenko’s ruling crept up also by 5% (those who are satisfied – by 6%). It is important to note here that along with a rise in absolute figures from September through December a balance between convinced opponents of the president (41.3% in September and 44.7% in December) and convinced supporters (10.7% and 14.3%, respectively) has remained (see Table 2).

Table 2. Dynamics of electoral types, %

In other words, we can state that during the given period a polarization of the “vacillatory” (those who previously found it difficult to answer such questions) has taken place. It turns out that having determined its preferences the “vacillatory” split in two equal parts – half of them consistently supports the present head of state and his political course, another half joined the camp of his opponents. Besides, the ratio of those who say after the presidential election A. Lukashenko’s rating increased to those who think in the opposite has changed in favor of the latter (See Table 3).

Table 3. Dynamics of distribution of answers to the question: “Do you think after the 2001 presidential election A. Lukashenko’s rating (i.e. the readiness of the population to vote for him at the next presidential election) has increased or decreased?”, %

Naturally, sociologists would like to explain the given situation by the fact that data of different public opinion polls, which indicated that A. Lukashenko’s rating dropped since the 2001 presidential election, has finally reached voters. However, we believe this explanation insufficient. Aside from the information factor, other factors have played certain role – disappointment with the promised [after the election] liberalization of the social-economic course, cutting down social privileges and preferences to the population, etc.
What are the reasons for this polarization? Generally speaking, over the last three months no serious events affecting the life of common voters have taken place. As for the domestic political life – suppression of the opposition, attacks on the civil society, especially independent press, continue. Besides, a decrease in real wage was noticed in November.
We believe that the above described result form foreign political activity of A. Lukashenko. As we know, this activity has brought almost no dividends to him in the East (as a result of the “gas” dispute A. Lukashenko had to go to Moscow to make it up with V. Putin, and judging by the behavior of both presidents – on V. Putin’s conditions), and in the West (the Belarusian head of state did not only managed to attend the Prague NATO summit, but shortly after it most EU member-states and the USA banned the president and several other top Belarusian officials from visiting these countries). However, an analysis of the given consequences is mainly for those who are interested in politics. It seems that common citizens reacted to the fact of heightened activity of the head of state. Such activity contributed to the formation of a more definite attitude from the vacillatory majority to the president.
The only, but a very significant exception from the aforementioned process of an even polarization of the “vacillatory” is the voters’ attitude to the project “the third term” for A. Lukashenko. In this case the growing number of supporters of the idea was not accompanied by a twin rise in the number of its opponents (See Tables 4 and 5). As we can see, compared to September there are 4% more respondents who are positive about abolishing the constitutional norm which does not allow A. Lukashenko to be elected the president for more than two consecutive times, and 7% more those who are ready to support such abolition at a referendum.

Table 4. Dynamics of attitude towards the abolition of the constitutional norm which does not allow A. Lukashenko be elected the president for more than two consecutive times, %

Table 5. Dynamics of distribution of answers to the question: “If there were a referendum to change the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus to allow A. Lukashenko be elected the president again (in compliance with the present constitutional norm he cannot be elected the president for more than two consecutive times), how would you vote?”, %

Therefore, which social groups contributed to this growth? In our opinion, there have been no sweeping changes in the Belarusian socium with respect to he third term. In fact, in September part of A. Lukashenko’s supporters (mostly people with a low level of education and aged people living in rural areas), in all appearances, did not know how to answer this question. But if the president’s opponents (mostly people with higher education) saw the point and did not change their opinion on this issue, the supporters became more inclined to vote for changing the Constitution (61.7% in September and 73% in December). At that the ratio of the vacillatory among A. Lukashenko’s supporters diminished. The given explanation is proved by the fact that among rural residents, who traditionally support the present head of state, the ratio of those who are going to vote “in favor” on both issues rose by 13%.
The aforesaid means that regardless of a certain rise in the number of those who agree to change the Constitution “for A. Lukashenko”, the authority has no reasons for optimism. All it has managed to achieve is to mobilize its traditional electorate. At the same time the majority of the Belarusian society consistently speaks out against changing the Constitution (57%) and is ready to express this opinion at a referendum (50.7%). Thus, the chances of realizing the project “the third term” have not increased.