Last week’s election of 58-year-old Agrarian party leader Semyon Sharetsky as speaker of the new Belarusian parliament was reportedly an unpleasant surprise for the country’s antidemocratic president, Aleksandr Lukashenko. Although their opinions on certain major issues coincide — both Sharetsky and Lukashenko oppose NATO expansion, for example — Sharetsky has emerged as one of the Belarusian president’s most important critics. Having steered the Agrarian party away from its alliance with the communists toward a more centrist position, Sharetsky’s party placed new-found emphasis on national sovereignty and constitutionalism. Recently, Sharetsky suggested that Lukashenko be held accountable for attempting to sabotage the 1995 parliamentary elections. Together with a majority of deputies, Sharetsky signed a letter earlier this month condemning Lukashenko’s defiance of the separation of powers. The former is said to have reacted negatively when Lukashenko, at a closed-door session of parliament January 12, described himself as the "trunk" bearing the three branches of executive, legislative and judicial power. Sharetsky’s debut as parliamentary chairman suggests that the parliament will resist Lukashenko’s year-long effort to undermine the legislative body. (9)
Moscow Wary of Georgian Proposals on Abkhazia.