BASEES Annual Conference 2022

Deepening the Societal Divide? Political Attitudes towards Constitutional Reform in Belarus among Regime Supporters and Protesters

Sat9  Apr09:01am(10 mins)
Umney Theatre


Jan Matti Dollbaum, Fabian Burkhardt


Since the 2020 presidential election, observers have diagnosed an increasing polarization of Belarusian society. As one way forward, both Lukashenka and his challenger Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya have proposed plans for constitutional reform, and have invited citizens to participate in this process. Based on an original, representative online survey carried out in September 2021, we ask in how far citizens’ preferences for constitutional change further deepen the divide. Our evidence is mixed: in some regards it supports the polarization thesis, in others it also provides a more hopeful perspective. First, there is large support among Belarusians for the idea that constitution-making should be participatory. Second, attesting to the polarization of society, we indeed find that Lukashenka supporters and opponents differ in their preferences for a broad range of amendments such as the separation of powers, or conservative values. A survey experiment corroborates this: When respondents receive additional information on who initiated an amendment (Lukashenka or Tsikhanouskaya), this significantly affects how they assess the respective proposal. Third, and crucially, we also uncovered views that bridge the political divide: There is a broad agreement that after a potential regime change, politics and constitution-making should be inclusive and open to all political forces irrespective of previous support for Lukashenka or Tsikhanouskaya.