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Belarusian President Offers Referendum On Third Term

Lukashenka's democratic bona fides have been questioned in the West (file photo) 20 July 2004 -- Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka today said he might run for a third term in 2006 if the country approves it in a referendum.

In a televised speech, Lukashenka said he would need to get "permission from the people" to make constitutional changes allowing him to run for a third term. Belarus's current constitution limits him to two terms.

Lukashenka also said that he would run as an equal to the other candidates in the next election.

"There will be third [presidential] term for Lukashenka only in accordance with the constitution. Only then, when the people decide," he said. "I am not going to extend any terms. If people allow me to participate in the 2006 presidential election, then I will participate, just like in the previous election, equally with the other candidates."

Lukashenka rose to power in 1994, and two years later oversaw a national referendum that stripped parliament of many powers and extended his term until 2001. He won another term in 2001 in an election that was not recognized as legitimate by European observers.