How Lukashenka usurped power 20 years ago

What way did Lukashenka take control of the Central Election Committee? In 1996, Viktar Hanchar the then chairman of the Central Election Commission, was trying to hold a referendum without fraud, but he was forcibly removed from office. Some years later, he was abducted.

Shortly before his displacement, Hanchar addressed the deputies of the 13th Supreme Soviet deputies and promised that the referendum initiated by president Alyaksandr Lukashenka would not be rigged. According to Hanchar, only 30-35% of Belarusians were ready to vote for amendments to the Constitution proposed by the Belarusian leader. Four days prior the voting, Potter lost his post.

Yarmoshyna’s debut

“[At the Central Election Commission] there were about 100 people, including armed gunmen. Valery Shchukin was trying to break through, I was there. Then Hanchar convened a CEC meeting in the building of the Supreme Council, but only 2-3 persons. The rest did not dare,” says Pavel Znavets, a former MP.

The incumbent chair of the Central Election Commission Lidziya Yarmoshyna was among those CEC members who did not choose the side of Hanchar. It is her who voiced the results of the 1996 referendum.

Constitutional Court failed to support Lukashenka

The then chairman of the Constitutional Court Valery Tsikhinya made a stand for Viktar Hanchar. In particular he recommended revoking the presidential decree on Hanchar’s dismissal. In 1996, the Constitutional Court was independent enough to question the legality of presidential decrees.

Deputies protested, but coup began

However, just a few days later, Mr Tsikhinya happened to be in the company of the people who “bury” the project of the presidential impeachment.

“Of course, there were protests of the Supreme Council, but Lukashenka did not care. A coup started,” ex-MP Alyaksandr Bukhyvostau recalls.

November 14, 1996 was the beginning of a chain of events that resulted in the Supreme Council’s dispersal and the twenty-year absence of opposition in the parliament. The fate of Viktar Gonchar was tragic as well.

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In 1998 Viktar Hanchar led an alternative Elections Committee during the presidential elections of 1999, organised by the opposition as a protest against Lukashenka’s constitutional reforms. But in 1999, Hanchar and his friend, businessman Anatol Krasouski, were kidnapped. Opposition activists and independent journalists believe that two opponents of president Lukashenka were killed at the order of the country’s top officials.

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