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Lukashenka Hints At Shift In Belarusian Power Structure, But Not Yet

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka (file photo)
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka (file photo)

Authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka has dangled the prospect of decreasing the ample powers of the president in Belarus, but suggested that such a change should not be expected in the near future.

In a meeting with heads of Belarusian media outlets on April 10, Lukashenka suggested that the powers of the prime minister and cabinet should be strengthened.

He added, however, that "the moment to change the constitution has not come yet."

Lukashenka has ruled Belarus with an iron grip since 1994, quashing political dissent, independent media, and civil society groups.

Dubbed "Europe’s last dictator" by some in the West, he has sought greater engagement with the European Union and the United States while also trying to avoid upsetting Russia, with which Belarus has close ties.

Lukashenka's remarks to the media came after a March 15 meeting in which he told Constitutional Court judges to work out proposals on changes to the constitution and judicial system, and said that a constitutional referendum should not be ruled out.

The chairwoman of the Central Election Commission, Lidzia Yarmoshina, had said earlier that there would be no referendum on constitutional changes before presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for 2020.

A move to shift power to the prime minister would be likely to prompt speculation about a bid by Lukashenka to retain power while stepping down from the presidency.

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    RFE/RL's Belarus Service is one of the leading providers of news and analysis to Belarusian audiences in their own language. It is a bulwark against pervasive Russian propaganda and defies the government’s virtual monopoly on domestic broadcast media.