Only three months have past since the presidential election and all passions raging around the event have suddenly abated. Regardless of the fact that independent monitoring over the voting process, and then the majority of non-state researches registered a great number of election law violations and an unprecedented falsification of the voting returns, all seem to accept the election results and Belarus’ society fell into habitual hibernation. What is the opposition up to, what are the former contenders for presidency doing, what are well known politologists talking about, if it is less and less reflected in Belarusian press?

Realistically, regardless of such calm, life is going on. Political parties and their leaders are in the process of painful comprehension of result failure, they analyze their miscalculations and failures, face criticism from colleagues and opponents, repelling attacks and claims by fellow-rivals. This is a normal post-election process, which must result in modernization of strategy and tactics of opposition organizations, in some cases change of their structures and even leaders.

In this respect estimations by public opinion leaders and experts regarding some issues of democratic movement and the opposition as a whole seem to be of certain interest. As Table 1 shows, leaders consider internal problems as one of the major reason for the defeat of the opposition (36.6%). Here they meant poor organization, absence of unity, confusion about a single candidate, etc. It is worth mentioning that leaders’ opinion is of little dependence on structures they represent. Another important reason is absence of bright leaders (35.2%). In this case elite’s opinion depends a lot on place of work – representatives of the public sector point at this reason twice as often as their colleagues from non-state structures. And finally the third important reason, according to public opinion leaders, is that the opposition failed to convince population it is right, it failed to prove advantages of its vision of society prospects and development. As a result, the opposition failed to attract voters and receive their votes for support of their candidate. If we add here absence of an attractive opposition program (9.9%), what is quite naturally, this seems to be the major reason for the defeat (42.3%).

Table 1. Distribution of answers to the question: “Why, do you think, the opposition lost the presidential election?”, % (open question)

The rest of reasons mentioned by leaders are less significant. As one could see, leaders consider absence of access to mass media (14.1%), unequal conditions for the candidates (14.1%) and even falsification of the election results as the major reasons. Meanwhile, a number of outstanding opposition politicians believe they are “objective” and appeal to them every time when it comes to defeat. Other really more objective reasons find much less support among leaders. In general we could state that leaders from the public sector are more inclined to see subjective reasons of the opposition’s defeat, whereas leaders from non-state structures – objective reasons.

Thus, there is an impression that many members of the opposition thoughtlessly hoped for habitual “off-chance”. They believed that either A. Lukashenko would “bethink himself” or the Kremlin would make him reckon with opinion of the regime’s opponents, that their candidate would be granted a free access to state-run mass media and constant glorification of the regime and its leader would be stooped, that the opposition would be allowed to control voting process and counting of votes. Lost hopes! “Force could be defeated only by force!” That means that in this case all these problems were known in advance, but why someone else must have solved them is unclear.

Undoubtedly, A. Lukashenko did not want (or just couldn’t) prove his non-involvement with disappearance or death [just on the threshold of the election] of such bright opposition politicians as V. Gonchar, G. Karpenko, Y. Zakharenko, any of whom would have been much more attractive than those who took part in the race. It seems no one can replace them yet. And if that was a purposeful action by Belarus’ authorities, we shall admit, it succeeded.

Nevertheless, this could not be an indulgence for present opposition functionaries. They communicate with voters too little, they show little consideration of their problems, demonstrate insufficient care about common people from periphery. Only episodic actions, a narrow circle of the same participants, who need no campaigning at all, are unable to bring additional votes to the opposition camp.

This is also proved by leaders’ answers to the question why the opposition enjoys almost no support in Belarusian society (see Table 2).

Table 2. Distribution of answers to the question: “Why, do you think, the opposition does not enjoy a wide support in Belarusian society?”, %

The same answers dominate: the opposition lost contact with people, it is poorly organized, has no access to mass media, it has no bright leaders and no good program. Only an insignificant minority explains problems of the opposition by popular stamps about its corrupt nature, nationalism, western sponsors.

In this context leaders’ opinion about a prospective strategy of the opposition regarding authorities seems of certain interest (Table 3). As one could see, more than one third of respondents (33.8%) “recommend” not to accept the election results and pursue the current policy towards authorities. There is almost no difference between representatives of state and non-state structures. However, collaborationist moods are rather strong in state structures – almost 30% of leaders recommend to start cooperating with authorities. This is a hard to complete task, but it must be thought over and to find variants, which would allow to keep “principles pure” and to achieve influence upon process and minds. Meanwhile, some leaders (18.3%) mostly recommend adopting a more constructive attitude towards authorities.

Table  3. Distribution of answers to the question: “What, do you think, the defeated opposition should undertake?”, %

Table 4 demonstrates that 50.7% of leaders support the idea of keeping the wide civic coalition with a known modification of its structure and matter. Less than one fourth (23.9%) – speak in favor of its dismissal, since it was formed only for the election. For clear reasons more than one third (35%) of the public sector representatives declined to answer this question.

Table 4. Distribution of answers to the question: “Do you think further existence of the wide civic coalition in its present form is expedient?”, %

From Table 5 we see that only 50.7% of leaders believed A. Feduta, a famous publicist, who charged some opposition figures with embezzling resources assigned for the presidential campaign. Recently this issue has been widely discussed in mass media, especially state-run mass media, which tried to persuade Belarusians that everyone is prone to stealing, not only officials. Table 5 reveals that representatives of non-state structures, which allegedly were robbed, are less inclined to believe A. Feduta’s charges.

Table 5. Distribution of answers to the question: “Recently A. Feduta, a well known publicist, has charged some opposition figures with embezzling resources assigned by foreign structures for the presidential campaign. Do you believe such accusations?”, %

Perhaps, for this very reason the majority of them (43.2%) did not support the idea of a total financial check up, and about one third (29.7%) sounded indifferent to the problem (see Table 6). However, there are more supporters of the idea in the public sector – 41.2%, which twice exceeds the number of its opponents (17.6%). As a result leaders’ common opinion split in three: one third supports, one third does not support, the rest do not care.

Table 6. Distribution of answers to the question: “Some public figures and politicians came up with an idea to check whether the opposition properly spent financial resources received from international structures for the presidential campaign. What is your attitude?”, %

One might claim that the majority of our respondents from non-state structures are the corruptionists A. Feduta mentioned. But such statement must be proved.

As for the former contenders for presidency whom the opposition supported, leaders are quite pessimistic about their political prospects. Especially regarding V. Goncharik: more than 80% of leaders, regardless of structures they represent, think he has no such prospects (see Table 7). Although S. Domash enjoys a more favorable attitude, especially among representatives of non-state structures (see Table 8), their answers must make the former candidate think well about his political future.

Table 7. Distribution of answers to the question: “Do you think V. Goncharik has any political prospects?”, %

Table 8. Distribution of answers to the question: “Do you think S. Domash has any political prospects?”, %

As we see from Table 9, 57.7% of leaders are confident that election to the so-called “parliament” of Russia-Belarus Union State would take place. Every seventh thinks in the opposite. Here a question of the opposition’s participation in such election rises.

Table 9. Distribution of answers to the question: “Do you think an election to Russia-Belarus Union State Parliament would take place?”, %

Table  10. Distribution of answers to the question: “Do you think democratic opposition shall participate in an election to Russia-Belarus Union State Parliament?”, %

Table 10 shows that 53.5% of leaders, especially from the public sector (70.6%), believe democratic opposition must participate in it. This point of view is worth attention because, according to national public opinion polls, more than half of Belarus’ population is likely to take part (in October of 2001 52% of pollees answered in the affirmative). Therefore, in order not to lose contact with people, the opposition shall not refuse to participate in it, regardless of its provocative nature. Here is a bright example: representatives of Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian opposition were elected to the Supreme Council of the USSR of the last convocation, where they actively used the chance to denounce the rotten communist regime and Soviet imperialism, to protect rights of their people to independence and sovereignty.