Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has been running the country in authoritarian style since 1994 – when he changed the constitution to increase his control. This could soon change, but not anytime soon.
On April 24, Lukashenko said the constitution could be “improved” to share some of his powers, but not now.
“The constitution will be improved. Life changes and we change,” he told lawmakers in a televised speech to parliament on April 25 – one day after Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sarksyan resigned after almost two weeks of street protest.
“Yes, I can easily hand over some powers to other branches of government. Personally, I have not even thought about a referendum yet,” he said, referring to the public vote needed to bring any changes into force.
As reported by the Reuters news agency, Lukashenko wants to improve ties with the European Union and reduce Belarus’ dependence on Russia. In recent years, he heeded calls from the West to show more leniency towards political opposition.
In a separate report, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RLE) noted that the EU eased sanctions against Belarus in 2016 after the release of several people considered political prisoners.
However, the EU has criticised Lukashenko’s government for a violent clampdown on demonstrators protesting an unemployment tax in March 2017.