Belarus’s longtime leader Alexander Lukashenko has said he will change the law on presidential succession so that the national security council, where his son plays a prominent role, assumes power in the event of a president’s death while in office.
“Tell me, if there is no president tomorrow, would you guarantee everything is going to be fine? No,” President Lukashenko told reporters on Saturday during a visit to areas affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in April 1986, according to the Belta news agency.
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“I will sign a decree about how the power in Belarus will be set up. If the president is shot, the next day the security council will get the power,” he said.
Many observers have suggested that Lukashenko, who has ruled with an iron fist since 1994, aims to establish a political dynasty, although he denies this.
The president himself is the head of the national security council, but his eldest son, Viktor Lukashenko, also has a seat and is regarded as its informal leader.
Under current law, the prime minister takes presidential powers if the presidency becomes vacant, but Lukashenko said on Saturday that the premier would be only the nominal leader and all decisions would be made by the 20-person security council.
Months of protests
Lukashenko last year faced months of large protests calling for him to step down in the wake of an allegedly rigged election in August that gave him a sixth term in office.
State authorities responded to demonstrations with force, with tens of thousands of people detained and hundreds sentenced to lengthy jail terms. Nearly all major opposition figures are in jail or exile.
Lukashenko has rejected the rigging claims and repeatedly alleged that the protests were fomented by the West. Last week, Russia arrested two Belarusians who allegedly were leading an attempt to organise a coup and Lukashenko’s assassination. Lukashenko claims the plot had backing from the United States.
On Saturday, he claimed that NATO planned to send troops into the country if the coup occurred, bringing them to the Russian border.
“It was a springboard, I always told you, to attack Russia. It was the first step,” he said.
Belarusian opposition leaders this week voiced fears that Lukashenko would seek much closer ties with Russia as his power wanes, leading to a loss of sovereignty for the nation of 9.5 million people.
Lukashenko travelled to Moscow on Thursday for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.