When President Alyaksandr Lukashenka rigged a referendum and tossed out the country’s constitution, he rescheduled the end of his own term from 1999 to 2001. A small opposition, including many members of the elected parliament that Lukashenka forcibly dissolved in 1996, continues to agitate for free elections next year and receives some symbolic support from Western democracies.
It appears that Lukashenka wants to keep open the option of elections in 1999. His supporters have formed a new political organization, a coalition of Communists and Slavic racists called the Union of Popular-Patriotic Forces of Belarus. The new group is so unpopular it relies on suppression of free speech and the right of assembly, and so unpatriotic it favors union with Russia. In a platform statement that reads like a Freudian slip, the Union promises “to promote social and political stability under conditions of economic hardship.”