Addressing the Belarus parliament yesterday, President Aleksandr Lukashenko made the deputies an offer that many couldn’t refuse. He assured them that all would be included in the new parliament, which the president proposes to create on the basis of his own constitutional draft, if the deputies accept that draft and if they support the holding of the November 7 referendum demanded by Lukashenko.
Lukashenko’s appearance in parliament is in itself an indication that he smells victory in the protracted constitutional conflict in which the legislature has resisted the president’s bid to establish a personal regime. Parliamentary resistance appears to be unraveling as the president successfully splits the two largest groupings, the Agrarians and the Communists. Most of these deputies are at the same time directors of factories, state and collective farms, or government institutions, and in those capacities they are all cogs in the "vertical administrative mechanism" created by Lukashenko, with himself at the top. They are vulnerable both to threats of reprisals and to financial inducements doled out individually to their enterprises by the president and government. In addition, some of the Communists deem support for the Lukashenko-championed merger of Belarus with Russia more important than the Communists’ own preference for a parliamentary as opposed to presidential system.
Parliament chairman Syamyon Sharetsky, his predecessors Mechislau Hryb and Stanislau Shushkevich, and the small reformist and democratic parliamentary group look increasingly isolated in their effort to stop Lukashenko’s bandwagon. Other institutions that have resisted authoritarian rule, notably the Constitutional Court and the Central Election Commission, are simply being ignored by the president. Such institutional weakness may invite the radical extraparliamentary opposition to take center stage. (Belaplan, Radio Minsk, Interfax October 9 and 10)
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