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Belarus president convenes new parliament


Power sweep continues

November 26, 1996
Web posted at: 5:40 p.m. EST (2240 GMT)

MINSK, Belarus (CNN) -- President Alexander Lukashenko moved Tuesday to consolidate his swelling powers by convening a new parliament that promptly declared the existing one moot.

Lukashenko, who now has wide control over all branches of government, managed to lure a number of deputies away from opposition leaders in the country's ongoing power struggle.

More than 100 deputies in the new pro-Lukashenko legislature met with him and declared themselves the real parliament, though its legal status remained unclear.


The crossover deputies quickly passed legislation withdrawing impeachment efforts against Lukashenko, along with a law to make binding the results of Sunday's referendum giving Lukashenko nearly absolute power.

"Today is a historic moment," Lukashenko told them. "By passing this law, we are essentially emerging from the constitutional crisis."


About 70 Lukashenko opponents in the 199-member elected parliament met across town in the parliament building, while a small anti-Lukashenko gathering braved the snow outside. Lacking a quorum, the deputies failed to take action or come up with any proposals to counter Lukashenko's maneuvers.

"Lukashenko has won over more than half the deputies by buying them off," said opposition deputy Pavel Znavets. The president is consolidating enough power "to be a god on Earth," he said.


Sunday's vote, which opponents and international monitors pronounced unfair, changed the constitution to extend Lukashenko's term by two years, until 2001, and to give him nearly unlimited powers. Lukashenko claimed that 70.5 percent of the electorate backed him in the ballot.

Lukashenko promised that all the former deputies, including those who did not get seats in the new 110-member lower house, would retain their status and perks as members of parliament.


The opposition had promised to pursue impeachment efforts in the constitutional court. After the new body voted to withdraw the impeachment bid, though, the court's judges met in closed session and decided to drop proceedings.

The United States and much of Europe, with the exception of Russia, have condemned Lukashenko's power drive.

Correspondent Betsy Aaron and The Associated Press contributed to this report.  


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