‘Unpredictable’ Lukashenko, Belarus’ First President With AM-Ukraine-Election
MINSK, Belarus (AP) _ Voters bedeviled by economic troubles and rising crime voted overwhelmingly for a hard-liner who supports price controls to become their first president, results showed Monday.
Alexander Lukashenko, the chairman of parliament’s anti-organized crime commission, trounced Prime Minister Vyacheslav Kebich by 80 percent to 14 percent in Sunday’s runoff election, the Central Electoral Commission said.
Lukashenko, 39, capitalized on popular discontent over Belarus’ crippled economy and rising crime and corruption, promising during the campaign to lower skyrocketing prices and expel crooked officials to the Himalayas.
Kebich, doomed by his government’s failure to halt the economic slide, resigned after learning of what he called the ″bitter but understandable″ results. He acknowledged having made ″a number of mistakes,″ although he did not elaborate.
Lukashenko is expected to be sworn in at a special session of parliament on July 19 or 20, parliament officials said.
A former state farm director, Lukashenko was active in Communist groups for more than 15 years. He was the only member of the Belarus legislature to vote against the 1991 accord putting an end to the Soviet Union.
He promised last week to introduce fixed prices on most goods and ban private land ownership, and also said he wants the nation to forge stronger links to Russia.
Some leading Russian politicians seemed to be lukewarm about Lukashenko’s election, however. Vladimir Lukin and Konstantin Zatulin, both committee chairmen in the lower house of Russia’s parliament, referred to his ″unpredictability.″
Lukashenko has said he is ″neither with the left nor with the right, but with the people and against those who are deceiving and robbing them.″ He does not belong to any party.
Belarus, a nation of 10.3 million people sandwiched between Poland and Russia, has followed a conservative course since the Soviet breakup in 1991. It has maintained close ties with Moscow but has introduced few economic reforms.
Kebich, 58, has been premier since 1990, when Belarus was still part of the Soviet Union, and appeared to be Moscow’s choice in the campaign. The presidency was created under the constitution adopted in March.