Country Report Belarus December 1998 Main report

Political scene: While left-wing parties form pro-Lukashenka bloc --

Support among political groups is also strong. In September 15 left- wing political parties and organisations created a bloc of people's patriotic forces at a constituent conference held in Minsk. Among the participants were the Party of Communists of Belarus, the People's Patriotic Movement "Homeland", the Labour Union and the "Unity and Justice" movement. The new bloc issued a statement urging support for Mr Lukashenka and loyalty to the 1996 constitution that marked the beginning of the current regime. The opposition sees this constitution as a coup d'etat by Mr Lukashenka, whereas the president uses it as a reason for not holding the election in 1999 as scheduled under the old system.

-- the opposition remains weak and implausible

The main nationalist opposition party, the Belarusian Popular Front (BPF), is steadily losing its ability to mobilise supporters. On November 1st its rally commemorating a traditional national holiday near the mass graves of victims of Stalinist repression attracted only 3,000 supporters -- less than one-third of the number that attended the first such rally ten years ago. Other opposition rallies attract only a fraction of that number, with attendance usually in the hundreds. One of the reasons for the opposition's lack of support is that its programmes for economic reform have so far failed to present any credible alternatives. The National Executive Committee of the Republic of Belarus, an opposition "shadow cabinet" that includes members of the 13th Supreme Soviet (the democratically elected legislative body disbanded by Mr Lukashenka in 1996) has issued an economic programme promising 500% growth in average wages and minimum pensions over the course of three years; full compensation to those whose bank deposits and treasury bonds were devalued; stability of the national currency; and plentiful foreign investments.

© 1998 The Economist lntelligence Unit Ltd. All rights reserved
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