Belarusan President Alyaksandr Lukashenka rules out the proposals, recently aired in Minsk, regarding free parliamentary elections and possible modifications to the existing constitution. Meeting with West German diplomat Hans-Georg Wieck, head of the OSCE’s consultative-monitoring group for Belarus, Lukashenka rejected "insinuations" about pre-term parliamentary elections, asking the OSCE to treat the existing constitutional setup as "definitive" and "inviolable." In parallel statements, presidential officials denied reports that Russia’s acting Deputy Prime Minister Ivan Rybkin had supported the proposal for pre-term elections during his meeting last week with Lukashenka. (Russian agencies, April 9 and 10)
The president and his officials were reacting to the opposition "shadow government" leader Henadz Karpenka’s public statement that Lukashenka was yielding to international pressure and had accepted in principle to hold pre-term parliamentary elections. (See Monitor, April 8) The president appointed the existing parliament on the basis of a rewritten constitution he forced through in November 1996 by "referendum." Under that setup — which is not recognized internationally — parliamentary elections are not due until the year 2000.
On April 11, the Belarusan Popular Front’s (BPF) Council pointed out in its own statement that the prerequisites to holding democratic elections are lacking. The BPF listed them as restoration of the political rights stipulated by the 1994 constitution, press freedom, equal access to the state-owned electronic media, resumption of the work of the forcibly dissolved parliament, and guarantees of effective international control over the electoral campaign and balloting procedures. In practice, "democratic elections are only possible after the dictatorship is removed," the BPF Council concluded. (Russian agencies, April 11)