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Rally against government and President Lukashenko in Minsk Rally against government and President Lukashenko in Minsk  (ANSA)

Belarus President prepared to resign under new Constitution

Belarus' longtime President Alexander Lukashenko says he is prepared to resign if a new constitution is adopted. His announcement follows months of protests against his disputed re-election in August.

By Stefan J. Bos

Despite colder weather and possible lethal force by security forces, the elderly and the young have united their struggle against the president. Hundreds were detained in recent days at ongoing rallies to protest Lukashenko's re-election in August.

Demonstrators do not believe he won the ballot with 80 percent of the vote. They say he should leave after ruling Belarus with an iron fist for 26 years.

Amid the pressure, President Lukashenko suggested he might step down from under a new constitution. "I am not making any new constitution for myself. I will not work with you as president under the new constitution," he announced. "So stay calm and take this calmly."

Lukashenko promised that the new constitution would reduce the power of the president. Parliament is due to discuss the reforms by January next year. But the opposition considers the proposed constitutional changes a delaying tactic to discourage protesters.

It would make it more difficult for Lukashenko's main rival Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. Backed by the opposition, she considers herself the president-elect after the August 9 presidential elections.

Unexpected popularity

Tikhanovskaya recently spoke about her unexpected popularity among voters after her husband was jailed for running against the president. "It was like a sign of love for my husband," she said in an interview.

"I was sure that I would not be registered [by the authorities]. And I am sure they did it to laugh like: 'It will be funny. You are a woman; nobody is going to vote for you. Nobody is going to follow you'," Tikhanovskaya added.    

But many support her and even fight to see the married mother-of-two become president. Several leading opposition figures have been detained, while others - like Tikhanovskaya - have been forced to go into exile.

Belarusian police have also been accused of brutality during the mass rallies in this former Soviet republic, in which several people died, and many more were injured.

Listen to the report by Stefan Bos
28 November 2020, 17:27