Updated at 18:53,10-09-2021

Lukashenka: All-Belarusian People's Assembly is real mechanism of grass-roots democracy

By Vyachaslaw Budkevich, BelaPAN

The All-Belarusian People's Assembly is a real mechanism of grass-roots democracy, Alyaksandr Lukashenka said Wednesday in his opening address at the fifth edition of the event held at the Palace of the Republic in Minsk.

“The right of the person and the citizen to take part in managing state affairs is a necessity of the times,” the Belarusian leader said, speaking to a gathering of 2,500 delegates who had been selected through an obscure process.

“People of different ages, generations and occupations, you represent the population of our entire country, all the regions of the Motherland,” Mr. Lukashenka said. “The nation has entrusted you with huge responsibility. Together we should make decisions on the most important matters concerning the development of the Belarusian state and our society.”

The All-Belarusian People's Assembly is really one of the most important forms of direct democracy and a public institution that has proved its value in present-day Belarus, Mr. Lukashenka noted. “An open and honest talk with people has become part of life for the government and all public servants in the country,” he stressed.

The All-Belarusian People’s Assembly is not a formal event and not a tradition, but a time-tested and direct link between the government and the people, Mr. Lukashenka said. “It is an opportunity to calmly and thoroughly review the results of the past years and outline a strategy for the future,” he added.

The Fifth All-Belarusian People’s Assembly was initially expected to be held in culmination of Mr. Lukashenka’s reelection campaign in the fall of 2015, just like the previous four.

Critics speculated that Lukashenka broke the tradition because of his failure to deliver on promises that he had made five years before.

Economic failures might be the reason he decided against holding the Assembly before last year’s presidential election. The government had promised that Belarus’ GDP would grow by 62 to 68 percent in the 2011-2015 period, but it actually rose by about six percent. Industrial output rose by 5.7 percent instead of the promised 54 to 60 percent. The labor productivity rate rose by 12 percent instead of the promised 63 to 68 percent.

Mr. Lukashenka won a presidential election in 2010 after he promised at the Fourth All-Belarusian People’s Assembly that average monthly pay in the country would rise from $500 to $1,000 by 2015. However, pre-tax monthly pay in July 2015 averaged out at about $460.

Mr. Lukashenka explained in his opening address on Wednesday that the All-Belarusian People's Assembly was being held now, and not on the eve of last year’s presidential election because such events should be held when “it is possible and necessary to analyze the real results of five-year work, assess achievements and mistakes, and gain a deep understanding of global economic trends.” “It is only on these conditions that decisions can be accurate, well-founded and well-thought-out.”

Mr. Lukashenka suggested that the analysis of the country’s social and economic development should not be limited to the results of the most recent year.

Mr. Lukashenka also noted that the Fifth All-Belarusian People’s Assembly was being held on the day of the 75th anniversary of the start of Nazi Germany’s invasion of the USSR. “It is a truly symbolic, tragic and telling date,” he said. “The most terrible and bloody war in the history of mankind began 75 years ago. We remember its lessons perfectly well. The main lesson is that any problem, even the biggest one, can be overcome only together. If the nation gets united against difficulties, any obstacles are surmountable and any goals are achievable.”

Mr. Lukashenka noted that another lesson of the war was that the Belarusians should be on the alert and should not have a careless attitude towards the future. “We should not let us get caught off guard, as was the case in those years,” he said. “We should be able to foresee and prevent a danger. There is peace, quiet and proper order in Belarus at present. We live on our own country. We are not rich, but we have a sufficiency. We can see on the example of our neighbors that peace is the greatest value. It can be lost easily. The road from peace to war can be very short.”