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I was born in May 1996. It was an interesting time in my homeland.

A seven-question referendum was held in Belarus on 24 November 1996. Four questions were put forward by President Alexander Lukashenko on changing the date of the country's independence day, amending the constitution, changing laws on the sale of land and the abolition of the death penalty. The Supreme Council put forward three questions on constitutional amendments by the Communist and Agrarian factions, local elections and the national finances.

All of Lukashenko's proposals were approved, namely changing Belarus's national day, amending the constitution, and retaining the death penalty and a ban on land sales. Voter turnout was claimed to be 84.1%. However, the referendum, like its 1995 predecessor, was condemned by international organizations including the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, as falling far short of democratic standards, while others described it as a further consolidation of Lukashenko's dictatorship.

In the summer of 1996 President Lukashenko presented constitutional amendments for approval to the Supreme Soviet. However, the Soviet then produced a counterproposal, one provision of which would abolish the position of President. The ensuing power struggle escalated quickly, leading to intervention by Russian officials to try and negotiate a compromise that included declaring that the referendum would not be binding.

Voters were asked whether they approved of:

Independence Day (Republic Day) being moved from 27 July, the day of the Declaration of Sovereignty of Belarus from the Soviet Union, to 3 July, the day of liberation of Belarus from Nazi Germany in 1944;
Constitutional amendments put forward by President Lukashenko, which dramatically increased the president's power. Among other things, these amendments gave Lukashenko's decrees the force of law, gave him near-total control over the budget and extended his term to 2001;
The free sale of property;
The abolition of the death penalty;
The constitutional amendments put forward by the Supreme Soviet;
Direct elections to local bodies;
All state expenses being part of the national budget.
Due to several violations of electoral norms and Lukashenko's use of the state-owned media, Russia and some other CIS countries were the only members of the OSCE to recognise the results.

The Belarusian Helsinki Committee found that:

The local referendum commissions that should have been formed by local legislative bodies no later than one month before the referendum, were only set up for 5–7 days;
President Lukashenko illegally removed Viktar Hanchar, chairman of the Central Commission for Elections and National Referendums, from office. As a result, the work of the Commission, that was supposed to control the legality of the vote, was paralyzed;
By the time early voting began (9 November), polling stations had not been provided with proposed amendments and additions to the Constitutions, so the citizens did not know what they were voting for;
Voters were illegally called (and in many cases forced) to vote earlier than the actual date of the referendum. As a result, by the day of the referendum, nearly a quarter of voters has already voted;
Ballot papers were printed by the Office of Presidential Affairs of the Republic of Belarus. They were taken to polling stations without passing through the Central Commission for Elections and National Referendums and its regional divisions. There was no accounting for the number of ballots;
The referendum was funded not from the state budget, but from unknown "charitable" contributions, which was illegal. The Central Commission for Elections and National Referendums was completely removed from funding the referendum;
There was agitation and propaganda in favour of the position of President Lukashenko. In some cases the agitation was carried out directly at polling stations;
On the day of the referendum, observers, representatives of political parties and public organizations had obstacles placed in their way in trying to monitoring the voting, they were not allowed to enter the voting stations and were not given information they required;
There were numerous violations of the law at polling stations, such as no booths for secret ballots, no draft amendments and additions to the Constitution, voters allowed to vote without presenting identification documents, damaged seals on ballot boxes, and evidence of forgery of voter signatures.
The opposition also spoke of rigging of the referendum. According to Sergey Kalyakin, head of the Eurocommunist faction of the parliament, 20 to 50 percent of the votes counted have been falsified.[8] Syamyon Sharetski, speaker of parliament, called the 1996 referendum "a farce and violence against the people" and said that "the outcome of such a plebiscite could not be accepted either in Belarus nor by the international community". The opposition did not recognise the results of the referendum, nor those of the previous referendum held in 1995. The oppositional Conservative Christian Party calls for a return to the Constitution of 1994. Alena Skryhan, the deputy head of Communist fraction of the Parliament in 1996 said that the referendum had led to monopolization of all branches of power by president Lukashenko. Since then, various Belarusian opposition figures and former officials have criticized the referendum, with former Minister of Labour, Aliaksandr Sasnou, calling it a "coup".

Minsk Spring” or “Belarusian Spring” (Belarusian: “Мінская вясна” or “Беларуская вясна”) was a series of mass street protests in 1996–97 against the increasingly authoritarian President Lukashenka.

The protests were triggered by a constitutional referendum on amendments to the 1994 Constitution of Belarus. The referendum was called following a dispute between President Lukashenka and the elected parliament, the Thirteenth Supreme Council, over the president's proposal to amend the constitution to extend his term of office from five to seven years, create a second legislative chamber whose members would be appointed by the president, and limit the power of the Constitutional Court.

Officially, the public voted in favor of the amendments by a wide majority, although many countries, including European Union member states and the United States sharply criticized the conditions under which the referendum was held as “riddled with violations of democratic norms” and refused to recognize its results:

“The constitutional referendum occurred in a repressive political environment and with pervasive government control of the media. Through this control, the Government denied the voters access to the views of the opposition--including members of Parliament and of the Constitutional Court”. The referendum resulted in the dissolution of the Supreme Council, which was replaced by a new, bicameral parliament. The president handpicked the members of the lower chamber and gained substantial influence over the upper chamber. The net result was the effective removal of all representatives of opposition parties from government.

The protests in the spring of 1996 started with commemoration of an anniversary of the Belarusian Democratic Republic on 24 March and peaked during the Chernobyl Way-96 on 26 April 1996, which became one of the largest rallies in the period between the anti-Soviet protests of 1991 and the 2020 Belarusian revolution. According to various estimates, between 60 and 100 thousand people took to the central avenue of Minsk.

Following the constitutional changes in November 1996, the Belarusian political system became increasingly authoritarian with the government seeking to curtail all political freedoms. The authorities did not sanction most of requested street demonstrations and then brutally dispersed "unsanctioned" ones. They began to apply a wide range of repressive measures against their participants – from brutal police force to fines and administrative arrests to expulsion of students and dismissal of employees on political grounds.

Arbitrary and violent arrests of demonstrators, without regard to age or infirmity, have become commonplace. In violation of the terms of both the Belarusian constitution and international instruments such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Belarus is a state party, Lukashenka issued a draconian decree in March 1997, codified into law later that year, which severely limited the right to citizens to demonstrate, regulating the even the types of symbols, flags, and banners participants may use.

The protests resumed in the spring of 1997 with at least 10,000 demonstrators marching through central Minsk on 16 March.

Charter 97, a declaration calling for democracy in Belarus was published on the anniversary of the 1996 referendum.

All my life Lukashenka has been the despot dictator opposing the real democratic progress and future of my country.
496sbc · 36-40, M
So wait ur russian. ❤️
ozgirl512 · 26-30, F
Not a good way to live ...

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