Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 9

The main opposition parties of Belarus–the Popular Front, the United Civic Party and the Social-Democratic Hramada–made public yesterday a joint plan of political action against both dictatorship and the projected union with Russia. The parties are challenging President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to submit to the test of a presidential election on the expiration of his mandate in May 1999, as required by the 1994 constitution. Should Lukashenka refuse–as he seems likely to do–the opposition will officially declare him a usurper and appeal for international support of democratic forces in Belarus.

The three opposition parties have summoned a Congress of Democratic Forces to meet on January 29, to approve a common electoral platform of the opposition. Concurrently, the forty-four-strong rump of the forcibly dissolved parliament under the holdout chairman Syamyon Sharetsky has resolved, in accordance with old constitution, to call the presidential election for May 16, form a central electoral commission and local commissions, and launch a signature-collecting campaign for registration of the opposition’s presidential candidate or candidates. Registration of a presidential candidacy requires 100,000 voter signatures. The General Prosecutor’s Office and the Ministry of Justice promptly threatened reprisals for such “unconstitutional actions” (Belapan, Itar-Tass, January 10-13).

The leaders of the national-democratic opposition were in power from 1991 to 1994-96, but Lukashenka managed to force them out. He dictated a new constitution in 1996, at the same time he appointed a new parliament and prolonged his own term of office to 2001. The international community–with the exceptions of Russia and Serbia–recognizes the 1994 constitution and the forcibly dissolved parliament as legitimate, and does not recognize the prolongation of Lukashenka’s presidential term beyond May 1999.