Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 11

The ambassadors returning to Belarus found a tense political situation there. Addressing a special session of the country’s Academy of Sciences on January 15, Lukashenka protested vigorously against the market mechanisms of price formation, vowing that the state will set prices in Belarus. Ignoring, or distrusting, the detente just achieved with the European Union, Lukashenka denounced the West for allegedly applying “political coercion” on Belarus and Russia, for attempting to reduce them to the role of raw-material suppliers and for “foisting refoms” on ex-Soviet countries.

In the opposite camp, the Central Electoral Commission (CEC), appointed by the leadership of the forcibly dissolved parliament, held its constitutive session on January 16. The commission’s chairman is Viktar Hanchar, who had headed the CEC which Lukashenka dissolved, along with the parliament, in the autumn of 1996. The session adopted a calendar plan for organizing the presidential election, which the opposition has called for next May, under the pre-Lukashenka constitution, and in defiance of the president. Further, on January 17, some 2,000 (by the authorities’ understated count) supporters of the Social Democratic Party-Hramada demonstrated in downtown Minsk against dictatorship and against the Russia-Belarus Union (Belapan, Russian agencies, January 16, 17).