Unanimously and without debate, the Belarusan parliament’s upper house yesterday approved legislation enlarging President Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s powers. Lukashenka now has the authority to appoint directly the prime minister, the deputy prime ministers, the general prosecutor, and the National Bank chairman and board. He is also empowered to dissolve both chambers of parliament and to call referenda and regular or "extraordinary" parliamentary elections, all by presidential decree.
The additional powers came in the form of changes to the law "On the Presidency," which had been enacted by the legitimate parliament in 1995. Lukashenka never signed that law because it fell short of granting him the full authority he was seeking. The issue helped trigger the constitutional confrontation which led to the disbandment of that parliament by Lukashenka. (Russian agencies, June 24)
Yesterday’s vote took place in the absence of Lukashenka, who was planting a Russia-Belarus friendship tree in Sochi, the Russian leadership’s vacation retreat. The unanimous vote suggests that the president’s political machinery functions smoothly even in his absence. The grab for additional powers also indicates that Lukashenka does not take seriously the European Union-mediated dialogue with the leadership of the legitimate parliament.
In a related development, Russian Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov yesterday in Strasbourg surprised a Council of Europe hearing by conceding that Belarus’ observer status at CE cannot be reinstated at this time. Zyuganov even agreed that "it is necessary to help Belarus revise its legislation in accordance with European standards." He remarked that the Party of Communists of Belarus is in opposition to Lukashenka. (Itar-Tass, June 24) That party, like Zyuganov’s, favors a parliamentary system of government and has joined the opposition to Lukashenka on that issue. On the other hand, both the Russian and Belarusan Communists favor a merger of the two countries. As a net result, Zyuganov is more willing than the Kremlin to distance himself from Lukashenka’s authoritarian ways. The Russian government has thus far steadfastly defended Lukashenka against censure in international organizations.
Turkmen President Lashes Out at Military.