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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lukashenko Holds Firm On Plebiscite

MINSK -- Denying accusations he is trying to grab more power, the Belarussian president urged parliament Thursday to accept his date for a referendum on constitutional amendments.

"There are no reasons to cancel the referendum scheduled for Nov. 7. This date is already reflected in the society's mind," Alexander Lukashenko said.

Lukashenko said the lawmakers have to make the decision by next weekend, or "the question of the referendum will be decided ... anyway." Lukashenko and the legislators are locked in a bitter fight over the plebiscite, proposed by Lukashenko to expand his sweeping powers in the former Soviet republic.

The amendments would extend his term to seven years and give him the right to disband parliament, appoint judges, election officials and most members of the Constitutional Court.

Lukashenko demands the referendum be held Nov. 7. But legislators changed the date to Nov. 24 to coincide with parliamentary runoff elections and added referendum questions -- suggesting the presidency should be eliminated.

In response, Lukashenko blocked funds for the vote and said he would convene a popular assembly to push through his referendum.

On Thursday, Central Election Committee chairman Victor Gonchar said the referendum cannot be held anyway.

"The Central Election Committee has no money for the vote," Gonchar said at the parliament session. "The referendum cannot be held, neither on Nov. 7 nor on Nov. 24."