Lukashenko invited the All-Belarusian People’s Assembly to discuss constitutional reforms
Belarus president, leader since 1994, says he has too much power
Opposition sees in this event Lukashenka’s new attempt to stay in power
President Alexander Lukashenko on Thursday opened «All-Belarusian People’s Assembly», inviting 2,700 participants to discuss political reforms.
Opponents called the event a staged event designed to help him stay in power.
A former state farm director, Lukashenka has been running the country since 1994. However, following the presidential elections in August last year, which the opposition believes were grossly rigged, he faced an unprecedented wave of street protests..
Mass arrests and brutal suppression of protests led to a new series of Western sanctions, but Lukashenko held out thanks to the diplomatic and financial support of a traditional ally, Russia, which sees Belarus as a buffer state between it and NATO..
Speaking at the forum, Lukashenko said that the country is going through a turning point in its history.
«We are going through a very serious and critical period in the life of not only our state, but also the entire Belarusian people. There were few such moments in the history of our country», – said Lukashenka.
He compared the current situation with the collapse of the Soviet Union and its aftermath.. «The only difference is that then there was complete hopelessness. There was no country, there was nothing at all. Tipping point, chaos in people’s minds», – added Lukashenka.
According to him, now Belarus has undergone a severe attack from the outside..
«These were certain tests of their weapons for them, it was a springboard for an attack on Russia.», – Lukashenka said, speaking about Western countries.
Lukashenko said that the meeting participants could discuss the draft constitutional reforms, and politicians close to the authorities hinted at the possibility of an amnesty for political prisoners.
The two-day event is expected to spark new protests that have been going on for several months, but are smaller than in August..
«Lukashenko gathers people loyal to him for the so-called All-Belarusian People’s Assembly in order, from the point of view of the people, to legitimize the usurper», – said Frantisek Vechorko, adviser to the exiled leader of the Belarusian opposition Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.
«Because Lukashenka understands that he has lost the support of the people, and still clings to power in all possible ways», – he added.
Most of the participants in the meeting are pro-government local deputies and officials who were elected at special closed meetings..