The newly elected Belarusian parliament opened today with only 198 out of 260 seats filled. Those seats were contested in the three rounds of balloting held in May, November, and December 1995. The shortfall in deputies is largely attributable to the efforts of President Aleksandr Lukashenko to minimize voter turnout in those elections. The chamber is said to be comprised of 42 Communist, 33 Agrarian, 14 Civic Action, 12 Social Democrat, and 95 unaffiliated deputies. The selection of a new speaker will be a first order of business; the choice will indicate to what degree Lukashenko can aspire to dominate the assembly. The president favors former prime minister Vyacheslau Kebich, now an unaffiliated deputy, against whom Lukashenko has successfully squelched corruption charges. However, various factions are likely to propose their own candidates and the battle for the chairmanship may be intense. The Agrarians, led by aspiring speaker Semen Sharetsky, have emerged as a pivotal faction in the parliament. They have distanced themselves from the Communists by supporting Belarusian sovereign statehood and accuse Lukashenko and the executive branch of having attempted to scuttle the legislative elections. Lukashenko for his part has launched a grassroots-style organization, Citizens’ Support for the First Belarusian President, to enhance his image. (15)
Shevardnadze Calls for Bosnia-Type Solution to Abkhazian Conflict.