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PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: HOW TO AVOID FALSE START?

1. Discontent is growing

Analysis of dynamics of people’s attitude towards the present course and its main inspirer A. Lukashenko over the last year allows to make a conclusion that decline in support of this course, including popularity ratings of A. Lukashenko – is not a “collapse”, not a recurrent, but a relatively stable, and, perhaps, even steadfast tendency.

Considering requests of present-day TV-favorites, who are constantly accusing us of “manipulating ratings”, we asked very simple questions: “Are you satisfied with A. Lukashenko’s six-year presidency?”, “Would you like to see A. Lukashenko the country’s president for another term?”. “Who, in your opinion, is to blame for deterioration of economic situation in Belarus?” (See Tables 1–3).

Table 1. Are you satisfied with A. Lukashenko’s six year rule?, %

* Opinion poll was conducted jointly with the Center for Social and Environmental Studies

Table 2. Distribution of answers to the question: “Would you like A. Lukashenko being elected the president of our country for another term?”, %

Variant of answer

Survey among leaders (01’01)

National survey (11’00)

Total

Private sector

Public sector

No

86.5

97.7

70.0

41.5

Yes

8.1

20.0

36.1

DA/NA

5.4

2.3

10.0

22.4

Table 3. Dynamics of assessment of responsibility for deterioration of economic situation in our country, %

As one could see, there is almost nothing to comment on: the number of those who are satisfied with A. Lukashenko’s ruling and those who would like to see him the next president is lower than the number of those who are not satisfied with his ruling and would not like it to continue. Increasingly more people understand that authorities with A. Lukashenko at the top bear responsibility for decline in living standards. Looking at these figures some may say: “And what? A. Lukashenko is going to shift the blame for crisis on his own vertical, “to turn in” outstanding power figures of national or regional levels (or even the government as a whole), and will “come off clear.” We believe that this is unlikely to happen, because under conditions of the presidential race that has already begun, A. Lukashenko is much more dependable on his vertical (which – and only it – is able to provide him with “administrative resource” during the election), than just two years ago. If he “turns it in” – it could “turn him in” as well. As Table 2 shows, elite – not only non-state, but also state elite – sounds unanimous in this respect. It is quite a rare moment in modern Belarusian history: the president is more dependable on his vertical, than the vertical on the president. This circumstance is making exceptionally favorable conditions for searching for a compromise between the opposition and a part of Belarus’s nomenclature, which is dissatisfied with its status.

2. Profile of the future president

However, the number of those who are dissatisfied with the present course is not enough to make prognoses, since a considerable part of the population has not defined their political preferences yet. An analysis of the future president’s profile presented in an opinion poll proves it. (See Tables 4 and 5).

Table 4. Perception of the future president

The future president should be:

%

– under 45 (years old)
– over 45 (years old)
– does not matter

27.7
18.3
52.6

– urban resident
– rural resident
– does not matter

29.8
5.5
62.5

– male
– female
– does not matter

55.7
6.0
37.4

– resident of Minsk
– resident of a region
– does not matter

14.7
11.1
73.3

– believing in God
– atheist
– does not matter

29.5
2.5
66.2

– supporter of market economy (a)
– supporter of planned economy (b)
– does not matter

54.0
24.1
19.1

– representative of non-state organization
– representative of state organization
– does not matter

29.2
10.8
58.5

– proponent of power distribution (a)
– proponent of power concentration in president’s hands (b)
– does not matter

41.1
34.0
21.5

– supporter of Belarus’s independence (a)
– supporter of unification with Russia (b)
– does not matter

37.5
44.7
15.4

– supporter of cooperation with CIS states, and first of all Russia
– supporter of cooperation with western countries, first of all European states
– does not matter

41.2
29.0
27.9

– supporter of continuation of present course
– supporter of sweeping change of present course
– does not matter

32.6
49.0
15.3

– representative of present authorities
– representative of present opposition
– does not matter

29.8
15.5
51.1

– an independent candidate
– members of a party (including “party of power”)
– does not matter

35.3
9.0
53.2

Table 5. Social types depending on perception of the future president of Belarus, %

* Supporters of president democrat – those who chose variant (a) in Table 4, supporters of president autocrat – those who opted for variant (b) in all three positions supporters of president of indefinite type – those who selected other combinations in all three positions

A steadfast decline in support to the present course in Belarusian society, as we have already stated, means that increasingly more people think about possible alternatives to A. Lukashenko. Stable low popularity ratings of today’s opposition leaders (of all kinds) – both on party and individual levels – say that during less than a year left before the presidential election supporters of changes shall develop a new strategy, which would come up to expectations of millions of Belarusians who are dissatisfied with present authorities. In our opinion, development of such strategy shall consider possible combinations in several directions. Western direction, i.e. counting on support of international structures, still remains one of the most important. We would briefly review two other directions – proper opposition and so-called “nomenclature-like”.

3. Structure and status of Belarusian opposition

We could discern at least between three levels (or forms, if you like) of existence of Belarus’s opposition. The first level – proper political opposition. It includes those who, as a rule, take part in political activities within parties or structures close to them and, in line with public opinion polls, it numbers no more than 2 to 3% of adult population. The bulk of political opposition have a fair idea of their objectives (as a rule, ideological-political objectives related to coming to power and its realization) and are ready to achieve them by various ways, including the most radical means.

The second level – civic opposition. It includes those who work for different non-state structures – numerous NGOs, youth, entrepreneurial and other associations, independent labor unions, mass media, research centers, etc., and are taking an active part in social-political (or to be more precise, public, civic) process and numbers some 8 to 10% of the population. These people are also dissatisfied with the present order, and they openly express their dissatisfaction, but their objectives are absolutely different (more often ideological or professional – such as independence, democracy, market economy, law-abiding state). The majority of them prefer methods of “system opposition” – election, legislative initiatives, public debates, lobbying, etc.

Finally, the third level – social (simply speaking “kitchen”) opposition. It consists of people dissatisfied with present order and having, as a rule, social-economic objectives (perhaps, these are not objectives, but expectations – such as rise in living standards, order strengthening, etc.). The absolute majority of them do not publicly express their dissatisfaction (it derives from its name – “kitchen” opposition), and prefer more traditional, demanding no personal effort ways to achieve these objectives- expectations – such as election, appeals to authorities, etc., – and do not accept radical actions. Surveys show that today this opposition numbers 30 to 35% of the population (in fact, they are convinced opponents of A. Lukashenko’s course – see above).

Obviously, if this the most numerous layer of the opposition does not join social-political process, changes in Belarusian society are unlikely (excluding “specific forms”, such as coup d’etat). Perhaps, one of the reasons for decline in readiness to vote for democratic or independent candidates (within one month it went down from 53.5% to 44.0%, whereas confidence in the same choice by the majority of voters dropped from 32.1% to 22.9%) is that tactics of total boycott (“who is not with us – is against us!”) heightened self-isolation of political opposition in the eyes of social opposition.

Alienation of Belarus’s opposition from real life of the majority of Belarusians became obvious not only for journalists and analysts, but also for common citizens. This is how a readers of one of the leading independent newspapers reacted at its correspondent’s call “Stop talking, it is time to go into streets!”: “I am a mere voter, and I shall not adjust myself to someone else, join or demand something. And if someone wishes to lead, he/her has to come to me and ask what I want, and promise everything to me. Only then the road to power will be opened to him”, (Opposition is Extremely Far from People, Narodnaya Volya, September 22, 2000). This alienation resulted in the fact that the opposition’s image in public opinion, and in the eyes of social opposition, leaves much to be desired (see Table 6).

Table 6. Comparative characteristic of the opposition’s status in society*, %

Public opinion assessment

Presidential “vertical”

Opposition politicians

Journalists

Material status:
– poor
– average
– good

1.2
12.4
82.8

9.3
32.4
52.2

14.0
57.0
24.3

Correspondence of their living standards to their merits before society:
– live worse than deserve
– live as deserve
– live better than deserve

1.4
25.4
68.5

9.8
39.8
43.4

26.6
55.4
12.7

Enjoy respect in society:
– they are not respected
– enjoy some respect
– they highly respected

34.4
45.0
17.4

48.1
42.9
4.5

14.2
69.2
13.6

How do they affect people’s life:
– in no way
– in some way
– significantly

17.8
36.8
42.9

49.2
39.7
6.4

22.9
55.1
18.5

* Groups of presidential “vertical” and journalists are given for comparison

Attempts to explain this situation by authorities’ pressure upon society, total control over mass media, which present the opposition in the negative light, etc., in our opinion, are reasonable, but not enough. Aside from that, they lead away from problem solution. Today many opposition leaders refer to Yugoslavia’s experience. This is what director of the independent Center for Social and Political Studies L. Bogovic said a day after S. Milosevic’s overthrow: “What was very important – at local, federal and presidential election opposition candidates had a good program, which showed a way to solve problems of society, which served purposes of the majority. This, but not control over mass media, led to victory” (Radio Liberty, On the Long Way, October 6, 2000). The major problem of political opposition, in our opinion, is that it cannot “get directly” at social opposition. Mass “walking into people” is a noble cause, but history (for example, that of raznochinetz) proved its inefficiency. It is necessary to establish an active interaction of all three opposition levels (“getting” at social opposition through more dynamic and numerous civic opposition might become the most efficient way out) – i.e. to form a kind of “opposition triangle”.

“Nomenclature” direction presupposes an active cooperation of three political subjects – proper Belarus’s opposition, as well as its prospective allies from present Belarusian nomenclature and Russian establishment, which are dissatisfied with A. Lukashenko’s course for different reasons. Obviously, permanent threats of lustrations and “fair trial” against Belarusian “traitors”, as well as charging 150-million nation with “imperial ambitions” along with burning its national flag do not promote, to put it mildly, creation of second “opposition triangle.” We could admit that until recently only one of its “facets” – between Belarusian nomenclature and its Russian partners, some of which wish changes – has been under more or less efficient formation. After S. Milosevic was overthrown, when Moscow started considering “Belarusian issue” in a different way (even a remote prospective of Yugoslavia’s scenario developing in neighboring Belarus seems the last thing acceptable for Moscow), – a favorable opportunity for formation of this triangle came in sight.

However, successful for democrats presidential race start will depend not only on the mentioned favorable conditions, but, first of all, on the opposition’s consolidation, development of its social basis and nomination of candidate, who would be acceptable for such wide opposition and electorate that supports it. From this point of view, starting conditions cannot be considered favorable for the opposition (see Table 7).

Table 7. Ratings of popularity and influence of public-political figures of contemporary Belarus, %

Readiness to support an alternative to A. Lukashenko appears only when such alternative – in the form of comprehensible and acceptable anti-crisis program, as well as leader able to carry such program out – would be presented to society. So far public has seen one actor’s performance on the political stage. One of the key reasons for “emptiness” of Belarus’s political stage is lack of real influence of opposition leaders well known to wide public (M. Chigir, S. Shushkevich, Z. Poznyak) and elite (A. Lebedko, V. Vecherko, S. Bogdankevich, Y. Khodyko). Perhaps, if opposition leaders manage to demonstrate to society a concrete and – what is the most important thing! – significant to it result (for example, a concrete project with the West or Russia, but not a March of Freedom #…), i.e. its influence – they would be considered as a real alternative. This hypothesis is proved by the fact that the head of OSCE AMG in Belarus, Ambassador Hans-Georg Wieck, has become the only example of social-political figure, whose influence outstrips popularity (leaving aside the president, Security Council Secretary and Foreign Minister whose influence exceeds their popularity “on duty”), though under no circumstances he cannot be considered a Belarusian politician! That could mean the following: his activities are more important and known in Belarus (though event to a small part of society) than his personality (aside from him, only labor unions leader V. Goncharik enjoys such assessment with elite).

Therefore, consolidation of the opposition in all its activities aimed at wide public, including nominating a single candidate for presidency on principles acceptable for the bulk of electorate, – #1 task for the immediate perspective. So far the opposition has not decided whether alternative candidate to A. Lukashenko shall be nominated from a political party (or an alliance of parties) and have a clear ideological-political profile (national-democrat, liberal-democrat, social-democrat, etc.), or to be independent from political forces with a social-political profile (variant of “Belarusian Kostunica”).

4. Chances of winning

Results of our studies showed that chances of opposition leaders – the most prominent leaders, often with real structures behind them – are relatively low. But to play low stakes, as we know, – is the most dangerous affair. Some politicians may argue that low popularity ratings of opposition leaders are not revealing: when this or that leader challenges A. Lukashenko in the run-up for presidency, people will vote for him/her following the principle “just against A. Lukashenko” (as during the summer of 1996 many Russians voted for B. Yeltsin not because they liked him, but because of fear that G. Zyuganov could come to power). To clear up this issue in our October opinion poll we asked respondents to “vote” for pairs of contenders considered by today’s opposition (see Table 8).

Table 8. Distribution of answers to the question: “If today you were to chose the president of Belarus only from the below pairs of politicians, whom would you vote for?”, %

Variant of answer

Survey among leaders

National survey

total

private sector

public sector

S. Gaidukevich – A. Lukashenko
In favor of S. Gaidukevich

11.1

13.9

8.0

4.9

In favor of A. Lukashenko

13.0

3.4

24.0

36.2

Against both

63.0

69.0

56.0

22.1

Would not vote

11.1

10.3

12.0

7.6

DA/NA

1.9

3.4

29.2

R. Goretsky – A. Lukashenko
In favor of R. Goretsky

29.6

38.0

20.0

2.6

In favor of A. Lukashenko

11.1

3.4

20.0

35.6

Against both

40.7

44.9

36.0

21.9

Would not vote

9.3

10.3

8.0

7.1

DA/NA

9.3

3.4

16.0

32.8

S. Klayakin – A. Lukashenko
In favor of S. Klyakin

13.0

10.3

16.0

2.8

In favor of A. Lukashenko

11.1

3.4

20.0

35.4

Against both

55.6

62.1

48.0

23.0

Would not vote

16.6

20.8

12.0

7.0

DA/NA

3.7

3.4

4.0

31.8

A. Lebedko – A. Lukashenko
In favor of A. Lebedko

44.4

55.3

32.0

6.0

In favor of A. Lukashenko

11.1

3.4

20.0

35.6

Against both

31.5

31.0

32.0

20.2

Would not vote

3.7

6.9

6.5

DA/NA

9.3

3.4

16.0

31.7

V. Leonov – A. Lukashenko*
In favor of V. Leonov

55.6

55.2

56.0

In favor of A. Lukashenko

9.3

20.0

Against both

18.4

20.7

16.0

Would not vote

7.4

13.8

DA/NA

9.3

10.3

8.0

M. Myasnikovich – A. Lukashenko*
In favor of M. Myasnikovich

7.4

13.8

In favor of A. Lukashenko

9.3

20.0

Against both

62.9

62.1

64.0

Would not vote

13.0

13.8

12.0

DA/NA

7.4

10.3

4.0

N. Statkevich – A. Lukashenko
In favor of N. Statkevich

27.8

34.5

20.0

6.7

In favor of A. Lukashenko

9.3

20.0

35.6

Against both

42.5

41.4

44.0

19.8

Would not vote

9.3

13.8

4.0

6.7

DA/NA

11.1

10.3

12.0

31.2

M. Chigir – A. Lukashenko
In favor of M. Chigir

57.4

69.0

44.0

13.5

In favor of A. Lukashenko

9.3

20.0

35.0

Against both

14.8

10.3

20.0

16.2

Would not vote

3.7

6.9

5.7

DA/NA

14.8

13.8

16.0

29.6

* Wasn’t suggested in the national survey

As we could see, the result is distressing: even today in all combinations A. Lukashenko beats opposition candidates several times. If we suppose that half of the vacillatory (i.e. those who found it difficult to answer (DA) or did not answer at all (NA) finally join the majority (we have talked about “silence spiral” effect already), the present president’s victory is secured. And this is today, when “informational-propagandistic”, “administrative” and other resources of power in the presidential race have not been applied yet. What will happen when they are applied at least to the degree that was seen prior to the parliamentary election?

The same politicians, who always argue or simply ignore results of sociological surveys (as well as other assessments and advises “from outside”) put forward another counter-argument in this respect: each opposition leader taken separately receives few votes, but if we sum them up, obviously, the odds are in favor of “united opposition”. So, the sum of votes received by all opposition leaders in a closed rating of the October survey amounts to 31.0%, what is twofold higher than 16.7% of A. Lukashenko. If we add up votes in favor of opposition leaders, for example, from Table 8, we will get 36.5%, which is comparable with 36% in favor of A. Lukashenko in any combination. We shall just “strain ourselves” a little – and we’ll win! To answer this “counter-argument” we carried out a simple analysis: we distinguished a group of respondents who vote for A. Lukashenko in all six pairs (see Table 8). We shall admit, the figure we got is very interesting: 35.5%, i.e. almost equal to figures of each pair! By the way, this is a quite rare situation for sociological data processing: usually when there are two or three components, the cumulative figure is much lower than each one of them. Simply speaking, that means that A. Lukashenko enjoys not overwhelming, but consolidated and steadfast support: his electorate is ready to vote for him in any combinations. Now, we would try to guess, what figure we get while distinguishing a group of respondents who are ready to vote for prospective opposition candidates (following the principle “just against A. Lukashenko”!). Not 36.5% as one could expect, but … 0.4%, i.e. almost 100fold less! If we distinguish respondents, who are ready to vote for opposition candidate in three last pairs, we will receive a mere 3.5% instead of expected 26.2%. And so on. That means that unlike Lukashenko’s electorate, prospective opposition contenders’ electorate is scattered: few democrats that support, for example, N. Statkevich, are ready to vote in favor of A. Lebedko, and visa versa…

As some six months ago, the opinion poll registered an approximate parity between A. Lukashenko’s chances of winning the election and chances of his hypothetical rival (see Table 9).

Table 9. Distribution of answers to the question: “Whom would you like to see the president of Belarus?”

Variant of answer

%

Single candidate from democratic opposition parties

9.8

36.6
Independent candidate

24.6

Candidate – representative of other political party

2.2

A. Lukashenko

35.9

35.9

DA/NA

25.8

As previously, “silence spiral” of Belarus’s public opinion remains “firmly twisted”: “silent democrats” yield their hypothetical victory to “yelling conservators” (in line with traditional Soviet political terminology), believing they are the minority (see Table 10).

Table 10. Distribution of answers to the question: “Whom, in your opinion, the majority will vote for at the presidential election?”

Variant of answer

%

Single candidate from democratic opposition parties

5.4

21.5
Independent candidate

13.7

Candidate – representative of other political party

2.4

For A. Lukashenko

44.5

44.5

DA/NA

33.1

One of the reasons why democrats are not confident in their abilities is unbelief in the possibility of free and fair presidential election in Belarus. Answering the question “Do you think the 2001 presidential election in Belarus would be free and fair?” only 32.2% of respondents gave affirmative answers, 28% answered in the negative, and almost 40% found it difficult to answer this question.

Undoubtedly, authorities “contributed” to such perception of election, including by means of numerous and gross violations at the recent parliamentary election (only 28% of respondents believe it was democratic). But on the other hand, this pessimism could have been intensified by the boycott campaign: only 8.1% of respondents say “the boycott campaign was a success” (45% believe it did not succeed, the rest found it difficult to answer this question).

That means that an absolute majority of Belarusians do not accept the idea of boycott: almost half of respondents agreed that voters have the right to boycott the election, if they are not satisfied with conditions of its holding or registered candidates. However, almost half of those, who agree with it, believe the boycott campaign declared by the opposition did not succeed!

At the same time, a new encouraging tendency appeared: democrats’ non-confidence in their power is visibly disappearing. If in August parity of readiness to vote for A. Lukashenko and alternative candidate considering opinion of the majority changed in favor of conservators as 60.4% vs 36.8%, in November it leveled at 44.5% vs 35.9%. If further surveys prove this tendency, that would mean that “diffident” democrats are starting to realize their real stance in Belarus’s society. Perhaps, one of the reasons for such shift is that the phenomenon of Belarusian “silence spiral” has finally become public’s common property. Undoubtedly, it will create additional favorable conditions for winning the presidential election.

The above data expressively show that only an independent candidate, having no ties with parties or the opposition as a whole (we shall underline: having no public opinion ties!) has real chances of winning the election (at least, at the moment). Another thing is that under present political conditions such independent candidate cannot be “promoted” without support from the opposition or “power party” (we know where the victory of “candidate from nowhere” could lead). Other results prove it as well.

Here we could make a number of important conclusions. First, today’s opposition shall not only unite, leaving aside, at least for the run-up period, its ambitions and even party programs (at the minimum, uniting efforts of the Democratic Forces Coordination Council and Advisory Council of Opposition Parties), but also go beyond the framework of proper political opposition to create a Civic Coalition – where the most respected and influential structures of civic society (such as Belarusian Helsinki Committee, Labor Unions Federation of Belarus, Independent Labor Union of Entrepreneurs, Belarusian Charity Foundation Children of Chernobyl, and other structures) would be presented and within which “political shine” of Belarus’s opposition “would not dazzle public”. By the way, possible collision of necessity to chose one alternative candidate from several equal leaders, who represent different opposition groups (for example, M. Chigir, S. Domash, V. Goncharik), could be avoided by nominating a team – future president, premier and vice premier for economic reforms. In the eyes of public striving for changes such “team approach” would have not split democratic electorate, but on the contrary, strengthened positioned of these contenders, thereby increasing their chances of winning the election.

Second, in order to win the opposition must not simply change its tactics, but also strategy of its activities. As we know, the scenario suggested by “strong opposition” within the Democratic Forces Coordination Council presupposed consolidation of leading opposition structures with similar persuasions and approved (for example, by means of primaries, “soft voting” etc.) nominating of a single candidate for presidency from its background. Attempts to do the same, but at a wider basis (i.e. not only members of DFCC) – for example, initiative to create public unity “Election 2001” – provoked a restrained reaction at best. Principles, on the basis of which similar approval was suggested by the BPF – one of the most active and influential parties, member of the DFCC – have been recently published by Narodnaya Volya: no “discrediting ties with” present nomenclature, public speeches only in Belarusian, etc. To make the picture full it is necessary that candidate for presidency remains faithful not simply to the 1994 Constitution, but to the Statute of Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

Civic coalition shall be not even centrist, but left-centrist (with compulsory support of labor unions, and not only free, and numerous non-state organizations), to represent interests not only of convinced opponents of the present course, but of significant part of the vacillatory majority, and maybe a part of A. Lukashenko’s electorate. A leader, nominated by such coalition, shall have good connections (or at least image) with different professional groups (our respondents point at professionalism as the most important feature of the future candidate), with Belarus’s nomenclature (this is why M. Chigir, and now V. Leonov are steadily placed first in popularity ratings of opposition contenders for presidency) and Russia’s establishment (more than half of respondents are ready to vote for unification of Belarus and Russia), which are dissatisfied with the present course of the Belarusian president for different reasons.

Today discussions about the possibility of Yugoslavia’s scenario in Belarus are very popular with the Belarusian opposition. We shall remind that thousand hundreds of Serbs went out in the streets of Belgrade after numerous opposition structures jointly nominated V. Kostunica (though he suited none of these structures separately, but he suited them as a whole).

In any case, opposition leaders of all levels – political, civic and social – shall sit at the negotiation Table and find common grounds. Otherwise, false start at the presidential election is likely.

5. Possible scenarios

Analysis of the researches conducted by IISEPS in the year 2000 suggests three possible scenarios for development of the coming presidential elections. The first – let’s conditionally call it “democratic” – implies unfolding of events more or less like those expected by the democratic part of the society including the opposition. The second – let’s call it “Alexander Lukashenko’s scenario” – unfolding of events which meet the interests of the acting President. And, finally, the third is an “N-scenario”. It is difficult to insert any real names or groups into these scenarios as they are yet unknown and represent events, development of which depends on interests and expectations of other social subjects. Each of the above mentioned scenarios splits at up least into two more variants.

 

“Democratic scenario”. The first variant suggests that a single candidate will be nominated by democratic forces. The second one is without the single candidate.

 

“Lukashenko’s scenario”. The first variant implies use of force. The second one – a kind of new game played in manner of autumn 1999 negotiations, spring-summer 2000 dialogue, etc.

 

“N-scenario”. The first variant is a nomenclature-involving one. The second – another “rebellion of masses” headed by a new “Belarusian Robin Hood”, like it happened in 1994.

It is very important to find out, which of the variants will be backed up by the main heroes of the scenarios, i.e. democratic forces, A. Lukashenko or by yet unknown social subjects. It is possible to define three major factors influencing any development of the event.

The first factor is called a Belarusian factor, which, on its part, is subdivided into expected support of voters and nomenclature. The second factor is Russian, and the third – Western. In view of linking the scenarios and factors together, one should make up a matrix, in which lines would stand for the scenarios of the events and columns – for factors of influence (see Table 11). Crossing points for the lines and columns will make out cells – chances for success. It is not an easy task to give an exact analysis of all the cells. IISEPS has quite a big amount of information available but, unfortunately, this data is not sufficient for all the parameters. To adequately evaluate all the chances, one should not only have relevant information but be part of the situation and live it through. IISEPS experts, being members of the society and communicating with representatives of various international and foreign bodies, can judge with certain degree of confidence about interests and expectations of both Belarusian voters and the West. As for the nomenclature and Russia, these factors have to be evaluated through opinions and points of view of other people, who live in these communities.

Table 11. Possible scenarios of the presidential election, factors of their realization and chances of success*, %

Scenario

Factors

Belarusian (60%)

Russian (30%)

Western (10%)

Support of electorate (70%)

Support of nomenclature (30%)

Democratic (20%)

30

20

70

40

20

Single candidate (50%)

90

100

100

100

Several candidates (50%)

10

0

0

0

A. Lukashenko (50%)

40

30

10

40

30

Power (80%)

20

20

20

0

Playing (20%)

80

80

80

100

N (30%)

30

50

20

20

50

Nomenclature (85%)

50

100

100

100

Ochlocratic (15%)

50

0

0

0

* Read vertically. For example, chances of three major scenarios are estimated at 20%, 50% and 30%, and influence of factors at 60%, 30% and 10% respectively. Influence of Belarusian factor is divided into expected support of electorate (70%) and nomenclature (30%). Democratic scenario is divided into two variants of “single candidate” and “several candidates”, which at the moment seem to have approximately equal chances. A. Lukashenko’s scenario is divided into “power” and “playing” (flirting with public, opposition, West, insignificant concessions, “dialogs-negotiations, etc.) ,and scenario N – “nomenclature” and “ochlocratic” (new “rebellion of masses”). Corresponding chances are given in parenthesis. Success chances of each variant are given in the center of the table, they are considered from the point of view of expected support by corresponding participants of the election process. So, from the point of view of support by Belarusian participants, chances of the first scenario are at 30%, second – at 40%, third – at 30%; support by electorate –40%, 40% and 20% respectively, and nomenclature – 20%, 30% and 50%. Variant “single candidate” comes up to electorate’s expectations by 90%, and “several candidates” –by 10%. “Power” variant of A. Lukashenko’s scenario comes up to expectations of 20% of electorate, and “power” – 80%. “Nomenclature” and “ochlocratic” variants of scenario N could enjoy equal chances with electorate

We start with analyzing chances for success of the democratic scenario. Let’s consider the single candidate variant. No doubt, it would be the best way for development of Belarus. This variant has certain chances for existence as the process of the opposition’s consolidation has finally took place. Yet, it is well-known that conflicts are becoming more and more vivid after the recent parliamentary elections. Some politicians are openly speaking about a break up.

On the one hand, Coordinating Council of Democratic Forces has lost its members. But, on the other hand, the opposition has not nominated a single candidate yet. To a certain degree, this is a reasonable approach. Members of the Coordinating Council of Democratic Forces have realized that even political opposition cannot reach consensus regarding the single candidate. Therefore, they have selected three prominent figures – S. Domash, M. Chigir, and V. Goncharik, and wait for further development of the situation. Besides, the political opposition has other centers,which are eager to nominate their own candidate. First, this is Advisory Council of Opposition Political Parties, which includes members of Coordinating Council of Democratic Forces aside with parties of N. Statkevich, S. Gaidukevich, S. Kaliakin and others.

There are signals saying that a left-from-the-center block is being formed. The block implies Belarusian Social Democratic Party “Narodnaya Gramada”, the both trade union parties, plus, perhaps, someone else. One more force that has declared its intention to nominate a candidate for the presidential elections is Liberal Democratic Party, which is headed by S. Gaidukevich. Of course, there is another center that is capable of introducing new figures. It unites rather influential organizations of society, in particular, Belarusian Helsinki Committee, “Children of Chernobyl” Charity Fund, Belarusian Association of Journalists and some others. Due to these circumstances, first, representatives of the three above mentioned centers can hardly reach any consensus. Second, the consensus must be reached not only between them personally but between those groups and structures that nominate them. And this is not a problem that can be easily resolved. Thus, probability rate for nomination of a single candidate by the opposition (this candidate must be supported by the above mentioned forces) is equal to fifty fifty. There is no doubt that the single candidate variant seems to be the most successful among the two other democratic options. In case, several candidates are nominated, success at the elections amounts to zero (a variant voiced by some politicians and analysts saying that democratic forces could go advance from different directions at the first stage and unite later, in fact, represents a prolonged version of the single candidate scheme). It is extremely important to underline once again that the single candidate, who is supported by the opposition, should not be identified with any political force (party, union, etc). He must look independent for public. This conclusion is proved by a December opinion poll among the elite. The elite including government representatives does not merely prefers a single candidate (64.7% against 8.8% respectively for hypothetical rivals “an opposition representative – A. Lukashenko, 89.8% against 2.9% for “an independent candidate – A. Lukashenko”, 52.9% against 29.4% for “an independent candidate – an opposition representative”) but expresses confidence that ordinary voters have the same preference (see Table 12).

Table 12. “Silence spiral” in perception of Belarusian elite, %

It is evident that “the spiral of silence”, which, to put it figuratively, has been “pressing” the Belarusian society for several years (elite suffered even more than ordinary voters), has started “winding off” (it has been mentioned earlier): the elite feels confident that the majority of voters will not make choice in favor of A. Lukashenko (the set-up was different half a year ago). Second, there is almost no difference between the elite’s intention to vote for the independent candidate and the choice that voters are expected to make (as compared, for example, with the single opposition candidate or A. Lukashenko himself)!

It is rather demonstrative that while opposition leaders are thinking whether the single candidate variant is acceptable or not, their major opponent has outstripped them. He has claimed lately there is no presidential candidate in Belarus more democratic he is. That means that A. Lukashenko has already started a campaign aimed at attracting gaining voices of today supporters of the independent candidate. Most of politicians and analysts have treated this statement, mild to say, with irony. There are certain reasons for this. Voters, who prefer the independent candidate, are concerned mostly with independence from authorities (over 90% of interviewed leaders and experts are confident that “the future President of Belarus must stand for radical changes in the present course” and half of the nation-wide opinion poll stated this as early as September). So, A. Lukashenko may hope for “an independent image” provided he resorts to amending of his own course. The latter he appears to be unlikely to do. However, this episode suggests that, A. Lukashenko, probably, treats our data and analysis more carefully than his opponents.

Now, let’s proceed to Lukashenko’s scenario. The variant involving use of force implies the authority’s sever, brutal behavior accompanied with total ignorance of other forces and opinions either in society, or in the West or in the East. This is a total cleansing of political space on the eve of the presidential elections. This variant may be followed by disappearance of politicians, mass “imprisonment”, tough response to the opposition’s street actions, etc. This variant targets at driving the rivals out of the presidential race. Game variant means that A. Lukashenko will initiate or use somebody’s initiative to start a kind of game. That means agreeing on one point, and making it public, but, in fact, doing the reverse, splitting the opponents and inviting someone into the future team, and so on.

What does it mean “to invite someone into the team?” At the moment, many analysts refer to a team approach. The team approach targets at unifying several groups and putting them into political confrontation with the other part of society, the other ideology. For example, if the Constitution makes provisions for the post of the vice-president, such groups agree that Mr. Ivanov will become President, Mr. Petrov – vice-president, Mr. Sidorov – premier, Mr. Soloviov – Security Council state secretary, and Mr. Vlasov – vice-premier, who holds responsibility for economic reforms. Not one person but a team and its program are introduced to public attention at elections. Sure, Mr. Ivanov is the Head but he is not alone and has a team. This approach allows “killing several birds with one stone”. Take, for example, the opposition today. Some are ready to vote for S. Domash, others – for M. Chigir. Our researches reveal that if S. Domash is nominated for the presidency than those who are in favor of M. Chigir will simply leave for their dachas and ignore the elections. Yet, the former and the latter would vote for the tandem of President S. Domash and Premier M. Chigir. The same might be done by A. Lukashenko if he adopts a game variant and says: I’ll take part in the elections and promise that this or that person will be appointed Premier”. Then he will call the name of a person who will be convenient for the bulk of people including democrats. Probability rate for use of force by A. Lukashenko makes up 80% against 20% of the game variant. That means there is a chance for a compromise.

“N-scenario” implies, first, a nomenclature variant. In means that the Belarusian nomenclature (that of executive authority and other bodies) might obtain support of Russian nomenclature and nominate their own candidate at a certain stage of game. Besides, this variant has subvariants. The first one is applicable when there is a real nomenclature-supported candidate who will oppose A. Lukashenko, and the second one – A. Lukashenko will refuse to take part in the elections (for example, he is offered an ultimatum).

The second variant of “N-scenario” introduces another “rebellion of masses”, like it happened in 1994. Those voters who are still dominant in the Belarusian society and who had supported A. Lukashenko in due time, are expected to find strength to express their will (many of these people feel to be deceived today), and will somehow “throw a similar leader up to the surface”, either through mass strikes or by other means. The main thing is that a new charismatic leader – a new Robin Hood will “appear” as a protector of common people. He will become the parson to resist the authority. If we take “N-scenario” as 100% than the nomenclature variant will account for 85% and 15% – for the variant with a new Robin Hood. Now let’s return to the factors and distribute their support in accordance with the scenarios by filling in the cells in Table 11. One of the factors includes interests and influence of the West. Here, the variant involving use of force as well as the variants with the new Robin Hood and several democratic candidates will be excluded at once. The West would rather prefer not to face such situations. There are three cells left in the table, which are acceptable for them. The West may back up the single democratic candidate variant at 70%, the Lukashenko’s game variant – 10% and, finally, the nomenclature variant, which involves President’s resignation – 20%. It is obvious that “the single democratic candidate” looks like being dominant here.

It is more difficult to evaluate the factor of Russia’s interests and influences as we have far less information and experience at our disposal. If we take this factor as 100%, then, in our opinion, it will be redistributed, in the following way: the “N-scenario” (the nomenclature variant) will enjoy 50% of support, the democratic scenario (the single candidate) – 20%, and the Lukashenko’s scenario (there is clear preference for the game variant) – up to 30%.

It is high time to get down to the most essential – voters’ preferences. Paradoxical it may seem, but it is hard to make out any predictions here regardless a huge amount of data that is available for IISEPS.

At the beginning, let’s recall the voters’ setting. The Belarusian society may be divided into three parts as to the policy pursued by A. Lukashenko: 15% – “for”, 30-35% – “against”, and 50% – still without a definite opinion. The setting will be different for the opposition: 10% – “for the opposition”, 40-45% – “against”, with the rest voices not decided yet. If we consider Russia’s setting, here the number of uncertain voices is small – only 20-25%. Active and ardent supporters of the Russian factor make up 50-60%. Finally, 20-25% of interviewed have a negative attitude to Russia and fear of the incorporation. As for the West, there are few unsettled voices, and like with Russia, they make up some 20-25%. At the same time, 25-30% of people are positive about the West, while the bulk of the society is in antiwestern moods today – 50%.

The above setting makes possible defining factors that will be most influential for views of common citizens. There are few active supporters of A. Lukashenko as well as those supporting the opposition. That means that neither A. Lukashenko nor the opposition are able to persuade the Belarusian society of their righteousness. However, the pro-Russian vector is rather obvious. Consequently, voters’ preference is likely to lean to the party, on which Russia puts the accent. As we have mentioned before, Russia’s interests are focused primarily on the nomenclature variant, then on the game variant, and, in the least degree, on the single democratic candidate variant.

Based on the above facts, it is possible to distribute percents of voters’ preference. On the whole, the democratic scenario might enjoy some 40% of voters’ support, the A. Lukashenko’s scenario – 40%, the N-scenario – 20%. Now, let’s check the cells in the table, which contain dominants (i.e. the highest percent of probable support) of voters, nomenclature, Russia and the West, and see what scenario has the biggest number of them. It would be a logical answer to the question regarding the winner of the presidential elections.

The nomenclature variant, which entails replacement of the President, has quite real chances for success. In fact, the West is ready, though without great enthusiasm, to accept it. This variant will be naturally supported by the Belarusian nomenclature and Russian establishment and voters might follow them.

There is no doubt, that the number of various facts and combinations is much bigger. Notably, if the democratic scenario develops in the way of the single candidate variant it will gain more support from voters. However, if there are several democratic candidates, then, at the contrary, the support will evade. But so far, it is still unclear what variant will come out and, therefore, we have to suggest average schemes. If  Lukashenko’s scenario is developed together with the game variant as compared with the variant involving use of force, his support will also increase.

Possible repression is not likely to stop the nomenclature variant, as the nomenclature itself will be subject to the repression. Thus, its interests will be affected stronger than today and its readiness for an independent game might be only greater. Moreover, if the repression acquires large-scale, the West will automatically reinforce support not only for repressed democratic forces but for the nomenclature as well. Let’s recall M. Chigir’s case and the way the West and democrats reacted in response to his arrest and imprisonment. Who was M. Chigir before he agreed to take part in the election May 16, 1999? A well-paid nomenclature worker who had contributed to Lukashenko’s entrance into the Office. But he was supported at that time. The same might happen in case of the variant involving use of force at the presidential elections of 2001. As a result, the “N-scenario”, which possesses dominant factors of nomenclature and Russia, is likely to be backed up both by national voters and the West. Besides, repression, if they take place, would reinforce position of opponents of A. Lukashenko and his regime in Russia, for whom he is like an eyesore today. Therefore, repression will stir up Russia’s discontent and, in this case, the nomenclature variant will be activated instead of being oppressed. The main question remains: how to redistribute all these percentages and which of the suggested scenarios has the best chances to succeed?

The situation is too unstable to make exact predictions, at least from sociological point of view. By the moment, we can only state that chances of the “democratic scenario” are equal to some 20%, the “Lukashenko’s scenario” – 50%, the “N-scenario” – 30%. Here comes a very important conclusion: if the first and the third scenarios are merged (i.e. the parties agree to start joint actions), the chances for another president level up with A. Lukashenko’s chances to be elected for the second term.

So, to sum up the mentioned above, all candidates for the presidency in the Republic of Belarus and forces supporting them can be recommended, first, to build strategies and tactics, election programs and public speeches in accordance with real needs and expectations of voters and reject ambitious (personal, party, etc) understanding of reality (including understanding of what and how reforms should be introduced). The analysis reveals, for example, that public discontent with the present course and its inspirer is very high and tends to grow but still not enough to hope for mass actions of people, which would demand changes.

Second, one should take into account the fact that Belarusian voters are concerned not with cultural renaissance, not with legitimacy of power, not with after-effect of the Chernobyl explosion and even not with the independence of Belarus but mostly with a social-economic crisis, impoverishment of the population, lack of law and order, growing crime rate (including corruption). Thus, one of the head banners of the election campaign must read: “Decent living conditions and order for everyone!”

Third, one should realize that Belarusians do not attach much importance to the future president’s social-demographic status (sex, age, place of residence or employment). However, we may say that the Bs society is not ready for a woman-president. Though it has been found out there are more supporters of democratic president than those backing up authoritarian president, the bulk of the society does not fully realize what it is. Expectations of voters are primarily of social-economic rather than political character. Analysis of foreign political priorities suggests that a presidential candidate should not put accent upon pro-Western orientation and the best slogan in this case – “To Europe together with Russia!” Russian establishment, which is also unsatisfied with the present Belarusian leader and his course due to various reasons, demands that the presidential candidate should voice a tangible and clear reassurance that the new course will be pursued exactly in this direction.

Fifth, under the today presidential race A. Lukashenko has become much more dependable on his administration (the only one able to secure an “administrative reserve” for him during the elections) as compared with the situation two-three years ago. If the Head of the state starts “trading” it – it will “trade” him. The elite, which consists of both non-state and state bodies – would not like A. Lukashenko being elected for another presidential term. A rather rare moment in the Belarusian history has come out: the president is more dependable on the administration he has than the administration on him. This circumstance creates favorable conditions for search of a compromise between the opposition and the part of the Belarusian nomenclature, which is discontent with its position. Such a compromise might take place if the Belarusian nomenclature is reassured by the presidential candidate that a new course will be based on professional bureaucracy (which is not directly involved into crimes).

Sixth, rating of all presidential candidates is extremely low at the moment (though some positive changes have been observed lately). Consequently, success is possible if a team approach is adopted. A team representing major candidates to enter the Office and offering a common program for the new course must be introduced to the voters. Implementation of the above idea requires an extensive public coalition, which would unite supporters of changes, and an agreement between major presidential candidates and their supporters, which must be observed by all the participants.

Seventh, on the whole, the Belarusian society disrespects the opposition. Both the elite and voters give preference to an independent candidate, who does not represent any political force. So, it follows that the presidential candidate and his team should not be associated with a certain political body. During the presidential campaign the candidate might enjoy support of any bodies, which stand for changes, but he (and his team) should not be nominated by organizations – neither by Coordinating Council of Democratic Forces nor Congress of Democratic Forces nor any other political party.

Eighth, opponents of the present regime should more actively and effectively use results of independence researches (including opinion polls), trust them, take into consideration suggested recommendations and do not take scientists as rivals on the ways to power and resources. The Yugoslav experience shows that active collaboration with independent researchers and analysts turned to be one of the key factors contributing to success of democrats in the presidential elections. So far, it is the authority not democrats who effectively use results of social researches for continuation of the course in Belarus.