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Belarussian parliament on Friday unanimously set the presidential elections for March 19, 2006
In last year’s October, a constitutional referendum was held in Belarus, in which President Alexander Lukashenko was given a go-ahead to run for the third term. Lukashenko said in November that he was “full of determination” to have the 2006 presidential elections held “accurately and elegantly in order not to let down Russia”. He said he had no need to “make myself vulnerable with my rating 73-75 percent; indeed, even the sociological services paid by the West give the president a 57 percent rating at present”. “This is sufficient for the victory, so why should I falsify something and let Russia down. Indeed, Russia is pressured from all directions. The slogan is this: you should crush this last dictatorship in Europe from the East and we should crush it from the West,” Lukashenko told a new conference on November 23. Meanwhile, the news about the elections made the opposition’s sole candidate for president Alexander Milinkevich cut short his tour of the Brest region and rush back to Minsk. According to unofficial sources, the opposition’s election staff is to hold an urgent meeting on Friday evening. Central Election Commission chief Lidia Yermoshina said that presidential candidates must present lists of their groups of support by December 23. She said up to ten candidates were to run in the elections. According to Belarusian legislation, the presidential elections must be held not later than two months before the end of the incumbent president’s term. Lukashenko powers end in September 2006. Explaining the decision to set the elections for March, the deputy chief of the parliamentary commission on state building, local self-rule and rules of procedure, Ivan Semenenya, said that the campaign for elections of local councils was to begin in Belarus in the autumn. “Holding two election campaigns during one year with a small interval is extremely undesirable,” he said. Besides, the summer “is not the most convenient time for an elections campaign,” Semenenya said. Parliament’s calling the presidential elections for March has not been unexpected for the opposition, the leader of the opposition Communist party Sergei Kalyakon told Itar-Tass. He is a chief campaigner of Milinkevich, the opposition candidate for president. Kalyakin described parliament’s unanimously shifting the elections to the earlier time as a sign “of uncertainty of current authority about its strength”. He admitted that the elections held in March “will create additional problems” for the opposition, even though its campaign tactic would not be changed. The election campaign schedule of the opposition’s sole candidate will have to be adjusted. “Some outbursts and social revolutions in Belarus similar to those that happened in the neighbouring countries are unlikely in the period of the presidential election,” the leader of parliament’s lower house, Vladimir Konoplev said. As for “so-called new electoral technologies, the best technology is good wages, timely paid pensions and scholarships for the youth,” he said. “Belarus is a leader with these indices among the CIS countries,” he said. The Central Elections commission said that the presidential election campaign would cost Belarus 35 billion roubles, or about 17 million dollars.
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