ALEXANDER Lukashenko has hinted he may quit being President of Belarus following months of widespread protests.
The 66-year-old has ruled the former Soviet republic for 26 years and was returned to office in August following an election deemed ‘rigged’ by his critics. Since the summer thousands have taken to the streets in protest, and the government has received heavy condemnation for allegations of police abuse, torture, and intimidation of the opposition.
Lukashenko has now announced that he intends to introduce sweeping new reforms that would reduce the significant power of the country’s presidential office. He said that handing such power to an ‘unknown’ individual in the future would be dangerous, but added that he will ‘not be President’ when these reforms pass. This is the first time that the leader described as ‘Europe’s last dictator’ has ever suggested leaving office.
Even Belarus’ longtime allies, Russia, have called for reforms. On Thursday Moscow’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, reminded Lukashenko that Putin has ‘repeatedly stressed’ the need for reform in Belarus. Lukashenko’s critics, including exiled opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, dismiss the President’s hints at resigning as a stalling tactic and have demanded he immediately leaves office.
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