Belarusan opposition leader Henadz Karpenka told the local press yesterday that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has, under outside pressure, agreed in principle to call parliamentary elections this year. According to Karpenka, this step was demanded by the OSCE observer mission recently set up in Belarus. Karpenka added that Russia’s acting Deputy Prime Minister Ivan Rybkin, visiting Minsk on April 2, carried a message from Russian President Boris Yeltsin urging Lukashenka to announce a date for the elections, and do it before the CIS summit convenes in Moscow on April 29. According to Karpenka, the opposition’s main task now is to make certain that the elections are free and fair. (Russian agencies, April 7).
Karpenka heads the Executive Committee, the opposition’s "shadow government" set up by the rump of the legitimate parliament. Lukashenka forcibly dissolved that parliament after the November 1996 referendum, which he staged. He then appointed a bicameral "parliament" not recognized as legitimate by any international authority. Under the presidentially imposed constitution, parliamentary elections would only be due in the year 2000.
Belarus and Russia Cool Economic Tensions.