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Lukashenko's heavy hand proves no obstacle to growth


Lukashenko: equates
Belarus's stability with
a proposed constitutional
amendment that would
allow him to stand for
president for another term

In September the president of Belarus, Aleksander Lukashenko, addressed his nation in the wake of the terrorist siege in Beslan. He compared the terrorist attacks in Russia with political stability in Belarus, and asked his people if they wanted to continue enjoying the stability he had brought.

If so, he said, they should vote for him in an October 17 referendum empowering him to alter the constitution and run again for president in 2006. Some observers believe he intends to stay in power for life.

The move was greeted with dismay but little surprise internationally. US senator John McCain, speaking in Latvia alongside leaders of the Belarussian opposition-in-exile, condemned the “tyranny” of Lukashenko's rule, saying: “He runs Belarus as if it were the Soviet Union, instilling a climate of fear, repression, and arbitrary rule.”

But Lukashenko's recent moves to alter Belarus's constitution could hardly worsen relations with the west. The US and EU recently refused entry to several senior government figures, saying they were connected to “politically motivated disappearances” of opposition politicians and journalists.

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