Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 192

By 88 votes to 84, the Belarus parliament has turned down president Aleksandr Lukashenko’s October 10 proposals. They had envisaged parliamentary endorsement of Lukashenko’s dictatorial constitutional draft and its joint submission to a referendum on November 7, in return for a guarantee of seats to virtually all deputies in an emasculated new parliament. Addressing the deputies before the vote, however, Lukashenko failed to restate that promise. He also sharply attacked his opponents and demanded, ultimatum-like, a final parliamentary decision by October 18. If parliament failed to meet that deadline, Lukashenko warned, he would have his draft endorsed by a "Belarus people’s congress" — scheduled to convene on October 19 — and would then conduct the referendum unilaterally.

Constitutional Court chairman Valery Tsikhinya ultimately swayed the chamber with warnings that Lukashenko’s draft constitution would establish "a totalitarian state in the center of Europe…totally isolating Belarus internationally." Immediately after the vote Lukashenko announced that he was withdrawing his "compromise" and stormed out of the chamber. (Belaplan, Interfax, October 10 through 13)

Lukashenko had recently collected the signatures of 110 out of the 199 deputies for his proposal, but his confrontational appearance in parliament on the decisive day clearly cost him some support. The parliament may now theoretically go ahead with its own constitutional referendum, scheduled to take place on November 24 along with parliamentary by-elections. Under the existing constitution and legislation, only the parliament is empowered to call a referendum and only the Central Election Commission may administer it. But Lukashenko and his finance ministry are unlawfully withholding the funds for the November 24 referendum and by-elections, while financing the president’s planned November 7 referendum and directing local executive bodies to administer it.

Fallout Continues from Armenia’s Presidential Election.