This past spring IISEPS recorded a slump in A. Lukashenko’s popularity rating – from 46% in October to 30.9% in April. Such a “collapse” (as the president would say) caused various processes both in domestic and foreign political markets – from public dismissal of members of the Belarusian government to fundamental changes in Russia-Belarus relations. We shall remind that right after V. Putin’s statement on June 14 about the necessity to “separate flies from cutlets” the President of the Efficient Policy Foundation G. Pavlovsky said literally the following: “With respect to the Union there is such a notion “political correctness”, because we all know that the rating of the Belarus president is falling. That is neither good, nor bad. That is the fact. That is the key reason why Russia had to specify the balance of its relations with Belarus”. The reaction by the Belarus president, who instantly turned into an advocate of state sovereignty and national pride of Belarusians, provoked numerous questions and doubts, hopes and blunt speculations, both in Belarus and abroad. Many expected a “new course” to expand A. Lukashenko’s electoral base and his authority to rise. And what about today’s attitude of the Belarusian electorate towards the president?

As one could see from Table 1, the president (and therefore his policy) does not enjoy support of the majority. Moreover, within four months his rating dropped 4% (in Minsk it went down from 27.5% to 22.4%). Today most Belarusians say they are not satisfied with A. Lukashenko’s ruling (See Table 2).

Table 1. Electorate’s attitude towards A. Lukashenko


* Answer to an open question (i.e. the respondents wrote down politician’s name)

Table  2. Distribution of answers to the question “Are you satisfied with A. Lukashenko’s ruling?”

Estimation of his activity, which was growing during the first term of his presidency, is falling again (See Table 3).

Table 3. Dynamics of estimation of the Belarus president’s work (on 5-grade scale)

Time of questioning
Average grade
After the September 17 press conference of the president many in Belarus and abroad ask themselves the question: what are A. Lukashenko’s chances to be reelected for the third term, which, as the president put it, is possible “only if we have a proper Constitutional norm. And that article of the Constitution falls under referendum. That means only by means of a referendum?” And we asked Belarusians about it (See Table 4).

Table 4. Distribution of answers to the question “If there were a referendum on changing the Constitution of Belarus to make A. Lukashenko eligible for the third term of presidency, how would you vote?”

A deeper analysis shows that considering presumable reaction of the undetermined (according to a long-term monitoring of electoral behavior, the majority of those undetermined joins a dominant determined group at polling stations), if such a referendum were to take place tomorrow, from 52% to 60% of Belarusians would have probably voted against such amendments to the Constitution. During the last year the public’s negative reaction to this idea increased (See Table 5).

Table 5. Dynamics of attitude towards the Constitutional norm banning A. Lukashenko from being elected for the third consecutive term, %

Which factors determine the choice of voters: to vote at a hypothetical referendum for the possibility of reelecting A. Lukashenko or against it?
A comparative analysis of these antagonistic groups of Belarus’ electorate on social-demographic profile revealed almost no critical differences (by which different attitudes towards reelecting A. Lukashenko could be explained) between them. As we assumed, there are more women among those ready to vote for such amendments to the Constitution, than men, people with low education level, aged people, pensioners, Orthodox believers, residents of towns and villages having low incomes. On the contrary, among those who are ready to vote against such amendments to the Constitution there are more people with a higher level of education, youth, students and those working in the private economy sector, Protestants, residents of the capital and regional centers having higher incomes. If we do not take into account expected differences among pensioners (dominated by those ready to vote for) and students (dominated by those ready to vote against) critical differences are revealed only among the respondents with the lowest and highest levels of education.
The language factor showed itself in a special way. 29.1% of those respondents who speak the Belarusian language in everyday life are ready to support changing the Constitution, with 41.2% against; among those who speak the mixed “trasyanka” the ratio is 18.4% to 45.8%; among those who speak both languages – 15.9% to 46.2%; and among those who speak Russian – 11.6% to 57.0%! That is a further evidence of the conclusion, which we drew several years ago: in Belarus the spoken language became not so much a cultural, as demographic factor.
Material-economic factors have a stronger influence on the choice of Belarusians than social-demographic factors. For example, 21.8% of those who say their life has improved since 1994 are ready to support changing the Constitution, whereas 47.7% are against; while among those who answer in the opposite the ratio is 10.4% to 59.5%. Among those who have faced no backpays in wages or pensions during the last year 22.4% are ready to vote for changing the Constitution, while among those who face the problem almost monthly the figure is 9.1%.
Among the respondents with incomes per family member in August below 85,000 rubles the ratio is 19.6% to 43.2%; among the respondents with incomes above 140,000 rubles – 4.8% to 67.5%.
Another important factor was Belarusians’ attitude towards observance of law (or “justice” as people would say). So, among those who believe that “during A. Lukashenko’s ruling powers and arbitrariness of state officials have decreased” the given ratio is 29.8% to 39.2%, and among those who think “powers and arbitrariness have increased” – 7.1% to 67.9%. Among those who believe that “all are equal before the law in our country, and a perpetrator will account for it” the ratio is 34.9% to 33.3%, and among those who think that “those who hold high posts could avoid punishment for committed crimes” – 10.7% to 61.4%! From this point of view the recent raid against non-state press in the form of court trials against Pagonya, Nasha Svaboda, Narodnaya Volya, Rabochy, caused a reverse effect. If among those who believe that “they were treated fairly” (because “they published false information about authorities’ activity”), the given ratio is 33.7% to 36.4%, among those who consider it unfair – it is 7.0% to 74.2%! That is what explains the lowest rating of law enforcement agencies among all other state institutions: today 26.5% of Belarusians trust courts (49.6% distrust), 22.2% trust police (57.3% distrust)!
However, the most significant factor determining Belarusians’ attitude to the third presidential term of A. Lukashenko by means of changing the Constitution was their awareness of …the president’s real rating and his possible rival! Among those who believe that “during the 2001 presidential election A. Lukashenko’s rating (i.e. the population’s readiness to vote for him at the next presidential election) rose” 51.1% are ready to support such amendments to the Constitution (14.0% – against), and among those who think it dropped – only 4.7% (71.7% – against). If we consider these groups from “a different side”, the picture is even more impressive. So, among the respondents ready to vote for the third term 56.6% believe that during the past year the president’s rating rose, and only 18.1% – dropped. But among those against changing the Constitution the ratio is 4.7% to 84.6%!!! Among those who “do not know a candidate able to compete with A. Lukashenko at a presidential election” 46.2% are ready to vote against changing the Constitution, and 77.9% among those who know such a candidate.
On the basis of the above facts one could suppose with a high degree of probability that if the absolute majority of Belarusians knew about A. Lukashenko’s falling rating and imagined his possible rival, there would have been no chances of introducing such amendments to the Constitution. (We shall note that such proposal does not take into account the factor of political control allowing authorities to demonstrate necessary results at any election). In this context the maniacal desire of Belarusian authorities to put independent public opinion research centers and independent press making public findings of such centers under control seems quite explicable. So, among those who believe that “the authorities shall control study and formation of public opinion” 39.2% are ready to vote for changing the Constitution (29.6% – against), and among those who think that “study and formation of public opinion shall be free” the given ratio is 7.3% to 67.0%! The authorities, as we see, are ready even to infringe upon public sense of justice for the sake of retaining information control, and finally, the power.
What is the prognosis? We shall take the risk of assuming that if influence of material-economic (deteriorating living standards), legal (law violation) and, especially, information factors (for example, objective information about the state of affairs in the country via Russia’s TV channels) is not pulled up, the Belarus president’s rating is likely to continue its downtrend. Based on the pace of its recent “easy” falling – approximately 1% a month (not taking into account the collapse during the first six months after the election) – we shall expect it to drop to 15% in a year, which is usually considered a critical threshold for a head of state. Under such course of events not so mush reelection for the third term, as retention of his powers until the next presidential election could become a real problem for A. Lukashenko.