Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 221

The parliament of Belarus on November 22 and 23 refused to ratify the "compromise" deal with president Aleksandr Lukashenko that Russia’s leaders had brokered in Minsk on the night of November 21-22. (See Monitor, November 22) A majority of the deputies agreed with those who condemned the deal as likely to guarantee the establishment of a presidential dictatorship. Stormy debates in parliament indicated that only some 60 of the 199 deputies supported the proposed deal. Parliament chairman Syamyon Sharetsky and Constitutional Court chairman Valery Tsikhinya followed the parliamentary majority and backtracked from the deal they had signed in the all-night talks under the pressure of Russia’s leaders.

The parliamentary majority agreed with the "zero option" under which it would stop impeachment proceedings against the president if the latter accepts that the constitutional referendum, which he expects would give him absolute powers, is to enjoy advisory status only. But the parliament rejected the heart of the "compromise," which would have sanctified the referendum by taking its result as the basis for a new constitution and which also would have created an unlawful "constitutional assembly" chaired by Lukashenko with a majority comprised of his supporters.

Following the collapse of the deal, Lukashenko reinstated his decrees that had declared the referendum’s result mandatory, while the parliament and Constitutional Court resumed impeachment proceedings against Lukashenko for prima facie violations of the law in issuing those and other decrees. (Belaplan, Interfax, NTV, November 22-24)

Hasty endorsements of the November 22 deal by the British, German, and some other chancelleries, which treated the two sides to the deal as equivalent and focused on the "zero option" but ignored its negation in the following provisions, did not appear to sap the parliamentary majority’s morale. Yet Western attitudes can still be crucial in tipping the political balance of power in Minsk one way or another.

Belarus Is (Soon to be) Nuclear Free.