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Belarus: President To Bypass Parliament Over Referendum On Powers

Minsk, 11 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Belarus President Alyaksandr Lukashenka says he would no longer work with Parliament and would "go directly to the people" in search of support for a referendum of enlarging his powers.

Lukashenka made the remarks today after a parliamentary debate had showed that a majority remained opposed to a plan to call a vote on November 7 on proposals to increase his powers.

Valery Tikhina, chairman of the Constitutional Court, reacted to Lukashnka's statement by saying that the president's plans amounted to "a legal Chernobyl," a reference to the 1986 disastrous nuclear accident in neighboring Ukraine.

Lukashenka's proposals would extend his term of office to 10 years. They would also give him the right to disband Parliament and powers to appoint judges, election officials and most members of the Constitutional Court.

The Parliament proposed its own referendum, to be scheduled on November 24, which, if passed, would abolish the presidency and establish a parliamentary system of government.

Both sides yesterday offered limited gestures of compromise during the debate. The Parliament suggested holding the referendum on November 7 subject to a change in the Constitution providing the president with the right to appoint some members of the upper house, as well as chairmen of the Constitutional Court and State Supervision Commission, but with Parliament's approval.

Lukashenka offered the Parliament wider powers on conditions of abandoning plans for a separate referendum of constitutional change.