Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 212

On President Aleksandr Lukashenko’s orders, voting in the constitutional referendum began on November 9, ostensibly for citizens unable to turn out on the officially scheduled date, November 24. The president’s order came despite the fact that the draft constitution has not yet been finalized, much less printed, while a rival parliamentary draft, although completed, cannot be publicized because of presidential control of publishing and the media. As the polls opened, Lukashenko "overruled" by decree the latest Constitutional Court verdict and related parliamentary decisions. The Court had ruled the constitutional referendum consultative and its outcome nonbinding, and the parliament had resolved to abide by the Court’s verdict and by the existing constitution.

Lukashenko’s decree served notice that he would dissolve state bodies that "hamper" the conduct of the referendum or fail to abide by its results. But the targeted institutions braved the threat. Parliament chairman Syamyon Sharetsky stated that the referendum is proceeding "through lawlessness and deception," and Central Election Commission chairman Viktar Hanchar announced that the CEC would refuse to recognize the results of the balloting. Citing leaks from presidential officials about plans to suspend the Constitutional Court, its chairman, Valery Tsikhinya, warned Lukashenko against incurring criminal responsibility and risking the fate of Romania’s executed dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu.

Lukashenko appears less than confident. Addressing the country on radio on the first day of balloting, the president thrice admitted to "anxiety," but vowed to cling to power against the "political adventurers" in parliament. (Belaplan, Radio Minsk, Interfax, November 9 through 11)

Moldova Has Its Own Watergate.