Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko says he will step down if new constitution is adopted

Nataliya Vasilyeva
·2-min read
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko made remarks about a possible constitutional reform during a visit to a coronavirus hospital in Minsk - Maxim Guchek/BelTa
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko made remarks about a possible constitutional reform during a visit to a coronavirus hospital in Minsk - Maxim Guchek/BelTa

Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarusian president whose re-election in August triggered massive opposition protests, says that he will step down if his country adopts a new constitution.

Belarusians have been protesting in the streets every weekend since the widely unpopular Mr Lukashenko was awarded a dubious landslide victory. His security forces have been dispersing and detaining peaceful demonstrators with gusto, fostering a deep resentment against his 26-year-long rule.

In a strong indication that he might be considering an exit strategy, Mr Lukashenko during a hospital visit on Friday said that he would “not work for you as a president” if a new Constitution is adopted.

Several weeks after the protests erupted, the beleaguered Belarusian leader floated the idea of amending the country’s main law to cut presidential powers and boost the country’s parliament.

The Kremlin, Mr Lukashenko’s only major backer, supported the idea and was apparently expecting some progress in that direction after Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, hosted Mr Lukashenko for talks in September.

Mr Lukashenko’s remarks came a day after he met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Belarusian capital Minsk.

The visibly annoyed Russian minister reminded Mr Lukashenko in televised remarks from that meeting about unnamed commitments that he made after his meeting with Mr Putin.

Mr Lukashenko, however, has not taken any concrete steps towards a possible constitutional reform, and mentioned on Friday that he wouldn’t “hand over” the country to a “stranger” while the current Constitution with its strong presidential powers is in place.

Belarusian opposition leaders have refused to discuss potential constitutional amendments until all political prisoners, including disqualified presidential candidates, are released.