The recently created Union of Popular-Patriotic Forces of Belarus, an alliance of leftist and pan-Slavist parties and groups, held its inaugural congress on September 12 in Minsk. Its main components are: the Liberal-Democratic Party, a Belarusan counterpart of Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia; the Communist Party of Belarus; and the Slavic Assembly [Sobor]. The Union aims to coordinate the actions of all those who support President Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s policies and to promote social and political stability under conditions of economic hardship. It also plans to form an electoral bloc for Lukashenka’s reelection.
On September 11, the Charter-97 Organizing Committee, composed of democratic opposition leaders, issued its own call to action. It urged the opposition parties both to press for free presidential and legislative elections. The formation of a “government of national salvation” would become the basis for a comprehensive anticrisis program, overcome the country’s isolation and mobilize international aid to Belarus (Russian agencies, September 11 and 12).
The 1994 constitution, unilaterally abolished by Lukashenka but considered valid by the opposition, mandates elections in 1999. Lukashenka intends to hold them only in 2001, under the constitution that he wrote and imposed in 1996. However, the formation of the Union of Popular-Patriotic Forces as a pro-presidential electoral bloc suggests that Lukashenka reserves the option of staging a controlled election next year.
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