Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 216

Belarus president Aleksandr Lukashenko has "dismissed" Central Election Commission chairman Viktar Ganchar from his post and appointed another chairman by presidential decree. Lukashenko told the country in a broadcast on November 14 that he was dismissing Ganchar for the latter’s "destabilizing" refusal to recognize as lawful the constitutional referendum ordered by Lukashenko and also because of Ganchar’s attempt to rebut Lukashenko’s speech to the Russian Duma last week. The Constitutional Court promptly warned Lukashenko that his measure is unlawful, since the parliament alone is empowered to appoint the CEC’s chairman and supervise its activities. Ganchar vowed to stay at his post, but on November 15 security troops forcibly evicted him and members of his staff. They also blocked parliamentary deputies, including Speaker Syamyon Sharetsky, from escorting Ganchar back into the CEC offices. In addition, OMON and presidential security guards blocked some deputies of the parliamentary majority from entering the parliament building that day.

On November 15 Sharetsky and the parliament’s presidium urged governments and legislatures around the world to support democracy in Belarus against the attempt to "install a dictatorship under the guise of a referendum." They also called for a special CIS summit to discuss the situation. Meanwhile, security forces yesterday again dispersed a 4,000-strong demonstration in support of democracy and state independence. Some senior parliamentarians who marched in the demonstration received blows from OMON batons.

In what looks like symptoms of disaffection in the president’s ranks, Prime Minister Mikhail Chigir cited "the President’s policy of confrontation with the parliament" in announcing his resignation. In addition, Lukashenko dismissed deputy minister of internal affairs Mikalay Krechka from his post, while Foreign Minister Andrey Sannikau resigned, reportedly over his disagreement with Lukashenko’s plan to condition the removal of the last ex-Soviet strategic nuclear arms from Belarus on NATO’s renunciation of its enlargement plans.. (Belaplan, Radio Minsk, NTV, Western agencies, November 15-17; Itar-Tass, November 18)

Patriarch Aleksy Notes Equal Status Of Russian Orthodoxy.