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Belarus: Police Forcibly Remove Electoral Commission Chairman

Minsk, 15 November 1996 (RFE/RL) - Belarus police today forcibly removed Viktor Hanchar from his office. Hanchar was fired yesterday as chairman of the Central Electoral Comission by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Reports from Minsk say Parlimentary leaders were discussing Hanchar's firing when word came of his being forced from his office by Belarus police. Several Parliamentary deputies were in Hanchar's office at the time of the police action, and say they and Hanchar scuffled with the police. No one was reported injured.

Lukashenka announced Viktor Hanchar's dismissal and the appointment of a successor in a live broadcast last night.

The Belarus Constitution says only Parliament has the right to appoint the head of the electoral commission.

Hanchar has been critical of Lukashenka's plans to hold a referendum this month on constitutional changes that -- if approved -- will strengthen presidential powers and extend Lukashenka's term. Hanchar had said he would not validate the referendum's results because of what he says are violations in the electoral law.