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Belarus: Some 5,000 Demonstrate Against Extension For Lukashenka

Minsk, 22 July 1999 (RFE/RL) - At least 10 protesters were reportedly detained late yesterday in Minsk during a demonstration against the extension of the term of Belarus' authoritarian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. About 5,000 people took part in a demonstration near Lukashenka's residence, demanding the end of what they call the president's illegitimate rule. Police warned that the protest had not been officially authorized, but no violent incidents were reported. Some members of the old opposition-led parliament that Lukashenka dissolved in 1996 met to declare Lukashenka's term over. They said Seymyon Sharetsky -- the speaker of the disbanded parliament -- was now the "de facto" acting head of state.

Lukashenka was elected in 1994 to a five-year term which was to expire on Tuesday. However, his term was extended through 2001 in a 1996 referendum vote which approved constitutional amendments Lukashenka had introduced.

But the opposition, western governments, and international organizations say the constitutional changes were marred by fraud and therefore not legitimate.