Publication: Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 154

The elation of President Lukashenko’s foes following Sunday’s election of a viable parliament may be short-lived. In fundamental respects, the new assembly promises to be even less reform-minded than the outgoing one. The Popular Front caucus, the engine of independence and democratization since 1990, led by Zyanon Paznyak, will cease to exist because none of its members won reelection. This will deprive parliament of the deputies who were most committed in word and deed to Belarusian nationhood and Western models. In place of the Popular Front will be a weighty bloc of hard-line communists and their Agrarian Party allies, most of them elected from rural backwaters during the May round of balloting. Finally, the 96 deputies (in a total deputy corps of 198) listed as "independents" are weighted toward sovkhoz directors, local soviet chairmen and government apparatchiks in addition to employees of Lukashenko’s presidential staff. It is difficult to envisage an opposition caucus emerging from this group. That leaves a small number of prominent deputies with reformist credentials, such as Stanislau Shushkevich, yet precedents suggest that the "lone rangers" will be too isolated opposite the retrograde majority to have much influence. The current parliamentary chairman, Myacheslau Hryb, also was elected in May, long before his conflicts with the president cast him in the unlikely role of democratic dissident. In November, however, Lukashenko made a pact with some 100 parliamentarians-in-waiting to oust Hryb from the chair at the first opportunity. All told, Lukashenko need not expect a great deal of resistance to his policies from the new assembly.

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