The December 10 by-elections will decide whether the Belarus parliament will be able to muster a quorum. Failure to elect at least 35 deputies would give President Aleksandr Lukashenko the pretext he is seeking to impose direct presidential rule, despite the absence of any such provision in the constitution. Lukashenko hopes to limit voter turnout to less than the 50 percent required for a valid election in the constituencies. But if they turn out in sufficient numbers, Belarusian voters will have dealt a major rebuff to the president. To minimize participation, Lukashenko has made sure that state television, which his office controls, plans to air first-rate entertainment programs from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on election day. (14) Anti-Lukashenko forces headed by parliamentary chairman Myacheslau Hryb are attempting to mobilize the population around the act of casting a ballot, rather than around parties or platforms. In an appeal on December 7, the parliament presidium told voters they would determine "the fate of democracy in our country" on election day December 10. (15)
OSCE Concerned Over Moldova.