Embattled strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who has ruled Belarus for 26 years, has said he would leave his post after a new constitution had been adopted, Belarus’s Belta news agency quoted him as saying.
“I will not work as president with you under the new constitution,” Lukashenka said during a visit to a Minsk hospital on November 27.
He didn’t specify when that day would come, but stressed the need for amendments to the constitution and adjustments to presidential powers.
Lukashenka has mentioned the possibility of changes to the constitution several times in the past, but the opposition has dismissed his comments as an attempt to buy time and stay in power while cracking down on anti-government protesters.
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Belarus has been rocked by protests since an August 9 presidential election handed Lukashenka a sixth term amid allegations of widespread fraud. Protesters say opposition candidate Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya was the real winner of the vote.
Ahead of the August election, Tsikhanouskaya had said that if she’s elected president, she’d organize a referendum to bring back the 1994 constitution that limited presidential powers.
Lukashenka has repeatedly said he has no plan to step down. Earlier this month, Lukashenka reiterated that he had no intention of handing over power to anyone, and accused protesters of planning a “color revolution” — a term often used to describe pro-Western political upheavals.
“No power transfer! No successors! Whoever is elected by the people must stay [in power],” he said on November 13.
The United States and the European Union have refused to recognize the 66-year-old Lukashenka as the legitimate leader of Belarus.
Based or reporting by belta.by and Reuters
This post was originally published on Radio Free.