Face-off between Lukashenka and Supreme Soviet

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Face-off between Lukashenka and Supreme Soviet

In spring of 1996, Alexander Lukashenko announced that Belarus was oriented towards further integration with Russia, and on April 2, 1996, Lukashenko and Boris Yeltsin signed Treaties on creating a Russia and Belarus community.

This was followed by mass protest actions in Minsk. The authorities suppressed them using force, and Zianon Pazniak emigrated from the country in order not to be arrested.

A confrontation between the President and the Parliament, which tried to impede authoritative initiatives, emerged very soon. In the autumn of 1996, the President insisted on launching a new referendum to adopt a new Constitution, which would result in almost unrestricted authority for him. Most deputies showed they were eager to compromise by agreeing to hold this referendum, but they gave it only consultative power.

The president issued a directive which declared that the referendum should have mandatory nature and, though he had no power to do this, fired Viktar Hanchar, head of the Central Election Committee. Special forces broke into his offices and made them leave.

The referendum took place on November, 24th and was held with severe violations of Constitution and acting laws. But the President dismissed the Supreme Soviet according to its results and formed a new legislative body, House of Representatives, from those deputies who were loyal to him. The referendum held in November was the day when Belarusian authoritarianism won its final landslide victory.

Author: Handbook on Belarus for International journalists