The Foreign Ministry of Belarus responded yesterday to a March 3 note from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which had urged the government to enter into a dialogue with the opposition to resolve the existing “constitutional dispute” (see the Monitor, March 5). The Foreign Ministry’s reply, denying the existence of a constitutional dispute, accused the opposition of “aiming to create the semblance of one.” The ministry announced that the government is prepared to enter such a dialogue, but only on the basis of the existing constitution and a “firm schedule” for the presidential election to be held in the year 2000. The note’s conciliatory form packaged an unyielding content.
The Justice Ministry, in a March 10 communique, accused the opposition of “frantically engaging in attempts to seize power” and otherwise “destabilizing the situation.” The ministry warned opposition activists in general that they face criminal liability. The same day, members of the opposition’s electoral commission were called in for questioning by the Minsk Prosecutor’s Office as part of a criminal investigation against them. The main charge is “usurpation of authority,” stemming from the opposition’s intention to conduct a presidential election this coming May. That action would conform to the 1994 constitution, which President Alyaksandr Lukashenka unilaterally replaced in 1996 with another document–the source of the constitutional dispute (Belapan, Itar-Tass, March 10, 11).
RUSSIA-BELARUS UNION: SHORT ON FUNDS BUT BENT ON ENLARGEMENT.