Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 165

A substantial majority in the Belarus parliament has moved into the forefront of resistance to President Aleksandr Lukashenko’s plans to institute personal rule (see Monitor, September 5). The parliament this week resolved to go ahead with the byelections needed to fill vacant parliamentary seats, in defiance of Lukashenko’s opposition to the byelections and his plan to dissolve the chamber. It scheduled the byelections for November 26, voted to hold the constitutional referendum on the same date instead of the November 7 date demanded by Lukashenko, and added its own propositions to the referendum ballot in order to counterbalance Lukashenko’s propositions. The parliament’s propositions are phrased to elicit voters’ support for the separation of powers and the rule of law.

In introducing the measures, parliament chairman Syamyon Sharetski (Agrarian) warned that Lukashenko seeks to reestablish a "totalitarian society with a state-run economy" and urged deputies to make that clear to their constituents.

The parliament yesterday elected a prominent opponent of Lukashenko, Viktar Hanchar, to the key post of chairman of the Central Election Commission, in charge of supervising the electoral campaign, elections, and referendum. A former aide to Lukashenko who has turned critical of the president, Hanchar then became secretary-general of the Minsk-based CIS Economic Court which exists mainly on paper. Earlier this year Hanchar was shot at by the police at night, in what he charged was a presidentially-inspired assassination attempt. The voting in parliament — 111 for Hanchar and 43 against, out of the 199 deputies — shows that the current balance of forces in parliament is clearly against the president.

The Constitutional Court supports the parliament. In public statements this week, Court chairman Valery Tsikhinya and vice chairman Valery Fadzeyaw described Lukashenko’s constitutional draft as juridically untenable, antidemocratic, and "inconceivable in the center of Europe."

Within and outside of parliament, 14 parties and movements encompassing the entire spectrum from the "right-wing" Popular Front to the Communists have set up an alliance to oppose Lukashenko’s plans. The member organizations continue to differ with each other on many issues, but seem united for the time being in resisting a presidential dictatorship. On September 2 the alliance held a mass rally in central Minsk with slogans supporting the rule of law and opposing dictatorship. The Popular Front, once the spearhead of the opposition, is now deferring to the Agrarian party and Sharetsky as leaders of the alliance. (Belaplan, Interfax, August 31 through September 5)

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