It has been talked over for a long time now that Belarus’ nomenclature is dissatisfied with the present regime and is ready to support an acceptable alternative to A. Luakeshenko. Who of the participants of the presidential race has more chances, in opinion of nomenclature, who seems the most powerful opponent to the head of state?

Naturally, aside form voters’ will, most of analysts note that the election returns would seriously be affected by both outside factors – positions of Russia and the West, and the stance of Belarus’ nomenclature. As for the West, everything is more or less clear here – to some degree international community, and here respondents are correct, is ready to support any democratic candidate (see Table 1). Belarus’ elite considers S. Domash as the most pro-Western candidate. This is, perhaps, a result of a recently formed stereotype: S. Domash – candidate from the BPF, the most pro-Western party. In fact, such a stereotype, to put it mildly, does not fully correspond to the truth because the West, logically, must support a candidate with better chances to win, rather than a candidate who shares similar ideas.

Table  1. Distribution of answers to the question: “Whom, do you think, of prospective candidates for presidency the West would support?”, %

As for Russia, regardless of an obvious change in form and content of bilateral relations, Belarus’ elite, especially from state structures, believes the Kremlin is likely to support A. Lukashenko (see Table 2). However, M. Marinich is close behind. One could suppose that M. Marinich is a symbol, incarnation of elite’s dream of a more balanced policy towards Russia, which suits new Russian leadership’s course, and at the same time normal relations with the West (in terms of support by the West, state sector workers placed M. Marinich third, after S. Domash and V. Goncharik).

Table 2. Distribution of answers to the question: “Whom, do you think, of prospective candidates for presidency Russia’s leadership would support?”, %

It is noteworthy that among top four, whom, according to respondents, Belarus’ nomenclature is ready to support at the presidential election, three contenders – A. Lukashenko, V. Goncharik and S. Domash – are likely to be registered as candidates for presidency (see Table 3). Nevertheless, M. Marinich shows here the best result, but he failed to collect enough signatures. M. Marinich is a typical representative of Belarus’ elite, who managed to stay in top echelons for a long time – in Soviet times, under V. Kebich and A. Lukashenko’s governments, keeping his reputation unstained both in the democratic camp and among state structures’ managers. And now, post factum, one might confidently claim that M. Marinich could have attracted some of the so-called “uncertain”, i.e. those voters who are dissatisfied with A. Lukashenko, but do not trust the opposition. In this respect M. Marinich’s joining the campaign headquarters of a single candidate from democratic forces should rather be considered positively, since he is able to get some of “uncertain” on the side of democratic candidate. It is also worth noting that, according to state experts, S. Domash cannot count on support by nomenclature, whereas V. Goncharik enjoys more support among state structures’ workers than representatives of non-state organizations.

Table 3. Distribution of answers to the question: “Whom, do you think, of prospective candidates for presidency Belarus’ nomenclature would support?”, %

If assessing a single candidate from the point of view of nomenclature, it is necessary to note that V. Goncharik seems a suitable candidate. Assessing degree of his support from the side of the West, Russia and Belarus’ nomenclature, respondents are equally optimistic (he is always placed among top three), whereas in the eyes of nomenclature S. Domash has an explicit pro-Western dominant.

Obviously, also for Belarus’ elite, A. Lukashenko’s opponents as compared to the head of state are being put in deliberately unequal conditions in terms of access to state-run mass media (see Table 4). The situation is unlikely to change after the registration of candidates for presidency. In this respect it is necessary to note that candidates from democratic forces are acting today on the principle “quality, instead of quantity”, putting stake at informing voters of improper actions by authorities. Here, first of all, is meant information about top state officials’ involvement in disappearance of opposition politicians and journalists.

Table 4. Distribution of answers to the question: “Do you think prospective candidates for presidency have an equal with A. Lukashenko access to state-run mass media?”, %

How do public leaders and experts assess efficiency of such information’s influence upon voters? To what degree do they trust it? As it turned out, public opinion leaders trust disclosing materials more than official propaganda by authorities. Almost 90% of non-state sector representatives and more than 60% of state sector believe in information about existence of the so-called “death squads”, revealed by former investigators of the prosecutor’s office O. Sluchek and D. Petrushkevich (see Table 5). More than 70% of representatives of both state and non-state structures are confident that A. Lukashenko would lose part of his votes after such information is revealed (see Table 6).

Table 5. Distribution of answers to the question: “Former investigators of the prosecutor’s office D. Petrushkevich and O. Sluchek accused the country’s top leadership of abducting and eliminating prominent opposition politicians and a journalist. Do you believe in such accusations?”, %

Table 6. Distribution of answers to the question: “Do you think the information released by former investigators D. Petrushkevich and O. Sluchek is likely to affect voting results regarding A. Lukashenko’s candidacy?”, %

Also many respondents think allegations voiced by I. Titenkov, former presidential affairs manager, are likely to be true, even though I. Titenkov’s reputation among representatives of nomenclature is not brilliant (see Table 7). Almost 17% of respondents claimed that after opposition politicians criticized A. Lukashenko on Russian TV channels their opinion of him deteriorated, and state sector workers proved more sensitive in this respect (see Table 8). Compare: – only 3.1% of pollees had an opposite opinion.

Table  7. Distribution of answers to the question: “Recently in an interview to Den newspaper I. Titenkov, former presidential affairs manager, has accused A. Lukashenko of bugging, illegally using arms trade revenues, being involved in disappearance of opposition politicians, etc. Do you believe in such accusations?”, %

Table 8. Distribution of answers to the question: “Recently leaders of Belarus’ opposition have criticized A. Lukashenko in programs at Russian TV channels (“Here and Now”, “Times”, “Today at Midnight”). Have such programs changed your opinion of him?”, %

Efficiency of using Russian TV channels is proved by the fact that less than 10% said they had not watched such programs. Audience and degree of trust, as well as influence of Russian television among Belarusian citizens is not a secret for A. Lukashenko. Therefore he is trying to minimize such influence. However, the methods applied have been of no use so far. After the well-known participation of Belarus’ opposition politicians in Times program hosted by V. Pozner, A. Lukashenko stated that the opposition politicians paid V. Pozner a large amount of money. About 90% of pollees think in the opposite (see Table 9).

Table 9. Distribution of answers to the question: “Do you agree with A. Lukashenko saying that the opposition politicians, who took part in V. Pozner’s Time program at the Russian ORT TV channel, had paid its host V. Pozner a large amount of money?”, %

At the same time, the Belarusian television, which severely criticizes the opposition, sometimes even in unacceptable for civilized countries forms, influences the domestic elite in the opposite direction (see Table 10). After “Secret springs of politics”, “Rezonans” and similar programs, 18.5% of respondents improved their opinion of the opposition! Only 1.5% answered in the opposite, and no one in state structures! Not surprisingly, feeling an inverse effect of wild propaganda, A. Lukashenko replaced V. Chikin, the former head of the Belarusian television, for moderate V. Skvortsov.

Table10. Distribution of answers to the question: “Recently the Belarusian television has launched a number of programs severely criticizing the opposition’s activities. Have such programs affected your attitude towards the opposition?”, %

Data showing public leaders and experts’ attitude towards the presidential decree #20 is also of certain interest. The decree regulates the process of submitting income and property declarations by candidates for presidency and their relatives. More than 80% of non-state structures’ representatives view it negatively. It was quite obvious. Unexpectedly, almost half of state sector workers share this opinion, and more than one third of them are not familiar with it (see Table 11). Negative attitude could be explained, perhaps, by the fact that state officials are extrapolating application of similar regulations on themselves.

Table 11. Distribution of answers to the question: “What is your attitude towards the presidential decree #20 regulating the process of submitting income and property declarations by candidates for presidency and their relatives?”, %

To sum it up, it is necessary to note that, first, V. Goncharik seems an optimal candidacy for a single candidate from democratic forces from the point of nomenclature’s view. Second, the opposition’s efforts aimed at reporting to society improper actions by authorities bring palpable results among nomenclature. However, it seems that only by means of negative information, sensitive information, it is possible to unmask the image of competitor, to explain why people shall not cast their votes in favor of the present head of state, but not to persuade voters to support a democratic candidate. To this purpose it is necessary to offer voters a simple, clear and constructive program as soon as possible.