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Lukashenka Dismisses Belarusian Government Ahead Of Presidential Vote

Updated

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka

MINSK -- Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has dismissed his government, state media report, two months before a presidential election.

"The president has decided to dismiss the current government. A relevant decree has been signed," Belarus 1 television channel said on June 3.

A presidential election is scheduled to be held on August 9, with the 65-year-old Lukashenka widely expected to win a sixth term in office.

None of the elections since Lukashenka took power in 1994 has been deemed free or fair by Western standards.

Belarus abolished presidential term limits in 2004.

Earlier in the day, Lukashenka met officials to discuss the composition of the next government, according to the BelTA news agency.

The Belarusian leader was quoted as saying he saw no need to make radical changes when forming a new cabinet.

"A sharp scrapping, replacing all members of the government, would be wrong from the point of view of the current moment,” Lukashenka said, citing the "unprecedented economic crisis" the world is facing amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"A new generation of leaders has grown up who have shown themselves well and worked well in the government. Why change them? They can work," he added.

Nearly two years ago, in August 2018, Lukashenka appointed Syarhey Rumas as prime minister and replaced several ministers.

Critics of Lukashenka say his government has shown little tolerance for dissent and independent media.

The Central Election Commission has rejected a bid by prominent opposition leader Mikalay Statkevich to rub against Lukashenka.

On June 1, Statkevich was sentenced to 15 days in police detention and dozens of activists were held by the authorities after rallies throughout the country.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) last month warned that Belarusian authorities have intensified their crackdown on protesters, opposition bloggers, journalists, and other government critics with a "new wave of arbitrary arrests" ahead of the presidential election.

The country of 9.5 million people has been the target of U.S. and EU sanctions over its poor rights record and lack of fair elections, but Belarus and the West have recently sought to mend ties to reduce Russia’s influence in the country.

With reporting by Belarus 1, Reuters, and BelTA
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