Belarusan parliament leaders managed last weekend to publish in an independent newspaper the parliament’s draft constitutional amendments and ballot propositions, to be submitted to a national referendum concurrent with the parliamentary byelections scheduled for November 27. The amendments would abolish the institution of the presidency, turn Belarus into a parliamentary republic, vest executive power in a substantially strengthened Council of Ministers, and enshrine the Belarusan language as official on a par with Russian. The ballot propositions ask the voters whether they support financial accountability of the executive branch of government and the right of districts, towns, and villages to elect their own executive chiefs. At present, President Aleksandr Lukashenko and his ministers exercise virtually discretionary control in spending public funds and in appointing local officials.
Nearly 30 political and public organizations have jointly appealed to national and international opinion to resist Lukashenko’s plan to conduct his own referendum, scheduled for November 7, under conditions of "nearly total control of the mass media" and aimed at "providing a semblance of legitimacy to the establishment of his personal dictatorship." Parliament chairman Syamyon Sharetski issued an appeal to the country and the international community, warning against the danger of a "totalitarian takeover" in this central European country.
Some 40 representatives of parliamentary groups, extraparliamentary parties, and other public figures including establishment members, have set up a Committee in Defense of the Constitution and Against Dictatorship, and called a congress to be held October 26. The committee includes former National Bank chairman and leading reformer Stanislau Bahdankevich, former internal affairs minister and anti-corruption campaigner Yury Zakharanka (both dismissed by Lukashenko), parliament vice-chairman and entrepreneur Henadz Karpenka, former parliament chairman Stanislau Shushkevich, the country’s foremost novelist Vasyl Bykau, and other distinguished figures. (Belaplan, Interfax, September 12 through 14)
South Ossetia Establishes Own Presidency, Schedules Election.