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BELARUSIAN PRESIDENT VOWS TO MAINTAIN FORMER COURSE... Speaking to Belarusian lawmakers and government officials on 17 November, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka stressed that the government's strategic course will not change, Belapan reported. "It was this course that the Belarusian people have voted for, and we have no right to change it," Lukashenka said at a signing ceremony for amendments to the constitution that will effectively allow him to run for president an unlimited number of times. The amendments were ostensibly approved in a 17 October referendum that was said by an OSCE monitoring mission to have fallen "significantly short" of democratic standards (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 19 October 2004), and considered by an international pollster as falsified by some 30 percent in favor of Lukashenka (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 26 October 2004). "No irregularities that could influence the results of the plebiscite were discovered," Central Election Commission Chairwoman Lidziya Yarmoshyna said during the signing ceremony for the referendum, which officially confirmed Lukashenka's right to run for the presidency in 2006 with an officially reported 90.28 percent of the vote. JM

...AND CALLS ON OPPOSITION TO RECOGNIZE HIS 'ACHIEVEMENTS.' President Lukashenka also urged the opposition on 17 November to recognize the achievements of Belarus under his rule and condemn calls for the country's international isolation, Belapan reported. "The opposition should split up," Lukashenka said. "If they still have just a trace of living and realistic ideas...they should, firstly, recognize the positive achievements in the most modern history of Belarusian society and, secondly, condemn strongly those mean appeals to Western countries to initiate activities aimed at our country's isolation, which were voiced by some opposition activists." In particular, Lukashenka said the opposition could appeal to the United States to repeal the Belarus Democracy Act of 2004, which was adopted last month (see "RFE/RL Belarus and Ukraine Report," 8 October 2004). Mikalay Statkevich, the leader of the opposition Belarusian Social Democratic Party (National Assembly), countered: "The opposition can, in fact, call on the West to cancel all acts and restrictions against the Belarusian authorities if Lukashenka acknowledges that there was a farce in Belarus instead of parliamentary elections and a referendum that resulted in an illegitimate constitutional change that granted him the right to stay in power for life." JM

UKRAINIAN STUDENTS DEMAND FAIR PRESIDENTIAL RUNOFF. The youth organization Pora (It's Time) announced on 17 November a nationwide strike campaign among Ukrainian students to urge the authorities to conduct a fair presidential runoff between Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko on 21 November, Ukrainian news agencies reported. The same day, some 5,000 students rallied in Ivano-Frankivsk to demand fair presidential elections and urge educational authorities to avoid politicizing the educational process or persecuting students for their convictions. Also the same day, 4,000 students picketed the local police headquarters in Lviv with similar demands. Many participants in the protests -- who, apart from Pora, included activists of the Chysta Ukrayina (Clean Ukraine) and Studentska Khvylya (Students' Wave) youth organizations -- had the orange bands and stickers of the pro-Yushchenko election campaign. JM

UKRAINIAN SOCIALISTS CHALLENGE 31 OCTOBER VOTE IN 35 CONSTITUENCIES. Yosyp Vinskyy, a proxy of presidential candidate Oleksandr Moroz of the Socialist Party, has appealed to the Ukrainian Supreme Court to rule on the authenticity of the official election results announced by the Central Election Commission (TsVK) on 10 November (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November 2004), UNIAN reported on 18 November. According to Vinskyy, Moroz's election staff revealed discrepancies between protocols from 35 of the country's 225 electoral districts and the results in those constituencies made public by the TsVK on 10 November. Socialist Party leader Moroz, who received 5.8 percent of the vote on 31 October, has thrown its support behind Yushchenko in the runoff (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 November 2004). Meanwhile, following a ruling by the Supreme Court, the TsVK will revise the official results of the 31 October ballot by taking into account the formerly invalidated ballot in constituency No. 100 in Kirovohrad, where Yushchenko reportedly beat Yanukovych by some 25,000 votes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 November 2004). JM

YUSHCHENKO SUPPORTERS TO HOLD PARALLEL VOTE COUNT ON KYIV SQUARE. Backers of opposition candidate Yushchenko will gather on Independence Square in Kyiv after the close of polling stations for the 21 November presidential runoff to take part in a parallel vote count, Interfax reported on 18 November, quoting lawmaker Mykola Tomenko from Yushchenko's election staff. According to Tomenko, the parallel vote count will be conducted on the basis of copies of the official election protocols that will be successively issued by territorial election commissions. Meanwhile, Serhiy Tihipko, manager of Yanukovych's election campaign, told journalists on 17 November that Yanukovych's supporters might call up to 40,000 miners from Ukraine's eastern regions to Kyiv "to defend the Central Election Commission" if the situation in the city is "aggravated" on the eve of the runoff, according to Interfax. JM

UKRAINE REPORTS RECORD GRAIN HARVEST. Ukraine harvested 45 million tons of grain in 2004, which is the country's highest grain crop since independence, Ukrainian news agencies reported on 17 November, Farm Workers Day in Ukraine. Authorities organized a gala concert the same day that served as a platform for outgoing President Leonid Kuchma to once again endorse Prime Minister Yanukovych's presidential bid. Kuchma, who was presented a wheat sheaf by a child in national dress at the concert, handed the sheaf to Yanukovych. "I want this sheaf to be safeguarded by a reliable pair of hands," Reuters quoted Kuchma as saying. "I am therefore turning it over to the prime minister." JM

UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT OVERRIDES PRESIDENTIAL VETO ON LAND SALES MORATORIUM. The Verkhovna Rada on 18 November overrode President Kuchma's veto of a law to extend a moratorium on the sale of farmland by individuals and legal entities in Ukraine from 1 January 2005 to 1 January 2008 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 October 2004), UNIAN reported. Three hundred ten of the 437 deputies registered for the session voted to override the veto. JM