Judging by the answers received (see Table 1), at present, according to leaders and experts, Belarus faces three the most important tasks. They are: reforming economy, retaining state sovereignty and society democratization (in fact, employees of the private sector placed “retaining sovereignty” first). That means that ten years after gaining independence Belarus is still at an initial stage of creating an independent state, still faces problems that have not lost their actuality.

Table 1. Distribution of answers to the question: “What, in your opinion, are the national interests of the Republic of Belarus?”, % (open question)

National interests are closely related to estimation of major threats to Belarus – what threatens its interests. As we see from Table 2, pollees believe that losing independence, absence of economic reforms and authoritarian regime are the major threats. Traditionally, representatives of non-state structures say authoritarian regime leads to other problems. In fact, none of them mentioned a split of society as one of such threats, though recently it has been widely talked over and no one seems to deny it.

Table 2. Distribution of answers to the question: “What, in your opinion, is the most serious threat to Belarus today?”, % (open question)

Employees of the public sector place threats in a different way. In particular, they have less fears regarding lost of sovereignty, but attach much more importance to crime, lawlessness and – surprisingly! – human rights violations, as well as NATO.

It has been repeated over and over that after September 11 the world has changed and under new conditions many countries, which correctly assess the situation and undertook concrete actions, might gain certain benefits. A vivid example – Russian President V. Putin’s actions. We shall admit that, in leaders’ opinion, Belarus lost the chance – three fourths of pollees are confident that in the present war against international terrorism Minsk adopted no official stance at all (see Table 3). Interesting enough, regardless of Warsaw statements by U. Latypov, head of the presidential administration, about support for efforts of the international community to fight international terrorism, less than 12% of state structures representatives believe Belarus is, in fact, a member of the anti-terrorism coalition.

Table 3. Dstribution of answers to the question: “At present, international community led by the USA is fighting against international terrorism. What, in your opinion, is Belarus’ official stance on these events?”, %

What will happen when another A. Lukashenko’s cadence ends? So far elite has declined to voice this important question. At the same time we know that in line with the Constitution (of 1994 and 1996) the president could be reelected only for two terms. However, real political practice of many post-Soviet regime shows that after the head of state is out of politics he runs risks of becoming not a respected statesman but an object of attention from law enforcement agencies. Therefore, various schemes of successors, security guarantees appear, etc.

It is hard to imagine A. Lukashenko a quiet pensioner, and also part of the opposition is likely to try to make him responsible for what he has done. This is a deadlock, when A. Lukashenko is simply not interested in leaving his post after his second presidential term is over, fearing of criminal prosecution. It is no secret that radical statements by some opposition members make him sure of it.

Consequently, we’ve got the following: more than 80% of leaders interviewed (86% in non-state sector) are confident that A. Lukashenko would do his best to prolong his powers for another term (see Table 4). However, answering the question about nomenclature’s reaction to A. Lukashenko’s possible third presidential term, respondents were less unanimous and fell in three equal groups – first, nomenclature would support him; second group think in the opposite, third group declined to answer (see Table 5).

Table  4. Distribution of answers to the question: “Do you think Lukashenko would try to prolong his powers for the third term?”, %

Table 5. Distribution of answers to the question: “Would nomenclature support such initiative of A. Lukashenko?”, %

But what really matters is – 43.7% of leaders (more than half on state structures) believe that population is likely to support such initiative (see Table 6). Only one third think in the opposite. Although today this is a rather distant question, it is not a hypothetical one. A. Lukashenko retained power, he is the president for the next five years, and for some time he might stay quite confident. If he decided to “advocate” the third term in the near future, nomenclature’s reaction would have been different. It is widely known in what way A. Lukashenko could achieve his goals, that he is able to mobilize nomenclature for this purpose. Even today a part of elite does not exclude that Belarus’ population would not object to A. Lukashenko becoming, in fact, the president for life. And elite, although A. Lukashenko hates any elite because it is elite, views A. Lukashenko’s plans to keep the power with certain understanding (see Table 11).

Table 6. Distribution of answers to the question: “Would population support such initiative of A. Lukashenko?”, %

What does all this mean? What should be done in order to make A. Lukashenko leave after his second term in office is over? Naturally, five years is a long term for a politician. Speaking frankly, to defeat A. Lukashenko, a charismatic leader, is very hard. Especially considering a significant social base, administrative resource, his talent of public politician and a rich experience of falsifying voting returns. Let’s remember charismatic B. Yeltsin in this respect, no one managed to defeat him, he left himself. It seems that it is in the interests of the opposition to become more systemic, constructive, to give up sweeping criticism of the regime, demonstrative fighting against tyranny. The latter together with reasonable criticism of authorities is the most blameless stance in terms of moral. But it is another question to what extent the majority of electorate views it as an acceptable alternative, to what degree it is efficient. Seven years of opposing A. Lukashenko provide not a single unambiguous answer.

Clearly, the most constructive stance of the regime’s opponents does not guarantee that A. Lukashenko would give up the idea of the third term right away. Undoubtedly, chances in this respect are likely to grow. If everything remains as it is, he’ll face a poor choice – either the third term, or what the opposition promises.

After winning the presidential race, A. Lukashenko has begun talking about economy liberalization. Regardless of the fact that such statement has been voiced frequently, and the country’s economy needs modernization, a little more than one fifth of leaders believe his promises. At the same time employees of the public sector are 3.5fold more optimistic than their colleagues from non-state structures (see Table 7). Maybe because they hope to use fruits of liberalization personally. Nonetheless, more than two thirds of leaders said they do not believe in promises of liberalization. Reasons for such pessimism are revealed in Table 14 – only 4% of leaders say A. Lukashenko’s statements about liberalization result from understanding the previous economic course was mistaken. The rest are sure that these promises is a forced tactical maneuver caused either by attempts to mislead the West (more than one third of all the pollees and about 50% of representatives of non-state structures), or necessity to pay off Russian oligarchs for election support (one fourth of respondents).

Table 7. Distribution of answers to the question: “Recently, the present president of Belarus has repeatedly claimed about forthcoming liberalization of Belarrusian economy. Do you believe such statements?”, %

Table 8. Distribution of answers to the question: “What, in your opinion, did cause A. Lukashenko’s statements about liberalization of economy?”, %

Table 9. Distribution of answers to the question: “Was, in your opinion, A. Lukashenko right appointing the President of Belarus’ National Academy of Sciences by his decision instead of electing him?”, %

Criminal proceedings against several large economic managers are usually referred to in order to prove that authoritarian rule [hardly compatible with economic liberalization] would remain. Unfortunately, questions about elite’s attitude towards such actions by authorities were not included in our questionnaires, but one could easily assume that nomenclature’s reaction would have been extremely negative. This statement is indirectly proved by Table 15, which shows that 77.5% of leaders do not approve appointing the President of the Belarusian National Academy of Sciences. Of course, this is not an arrest, but also not a liberal step.