Today’s parliamentary by-elections in Belarus are jeopardized by the Constitutional Court’s November 23 decision to maintain a 50 percent minimum turnout requirement for district results to be considered valid. At stake are 141 seats out of the Supreme Soviet’s 260. The by-elections are necessary because only 119 constituencies posted a voter turnout above 50 percent in the original elections, held in May. Parliament had afterward lowered the threshold to 25 percent against president Aleksandr Lukashenko’s strong objections.
Lukashenko has made no secret of his preference for instituting direct presidential rule and dispensing with parliament altogether if the elections fail once more or even if a newly elected parliament proves insubordinate to him. The Constitutional Court’s verdict in favor of Lukashenko is its first after a series of five rulings since August, which upheld parliamentary challenges to presidential decrees and declared those decrees unconstitutional. Parliament chairman Mechislau Hryb told journalists last week that direct presidential rule has already come into being with Lukashenko’s openly announced decisions to continue enforcing his decrees in defiance of the parliament and the Court. (12)
Moscow Using Karabakh Conflict to Gain Bases in Azerbaijan.