Parliament Splits In Belarus

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MINSK, Belarus: After declaring a landslide victory in Sunday's referendum that would expand his powers, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko found the results of the voting attacked by parliament. So today, Lukashenko convinced 111 members to leave their colleagues behind and convene in another building across town. That left 60 or 70 of his opponents behind in the original parliament, fuming and planning. Vice speaker Gennady Karpenko said the anti-Lukashenko deputies would not recognize the results, which were 70.5 percent in favor of the referendum. He said there was evidence of vote fraud that "constitutes a clear and glaring violation of the constitution and referendum law, crudely flouts human rights and makes the referendum results illegal." But across town, members said they had the necessary quorum to declare themselves the actual, working parliament, and seemed determined to follow their new ally. "Those people in that other building are just a group of deputies sitting around talking," said one of them, former Communist lawmaker Ivan Pashkevich. "The parliament can work wherever it wants." Parliament had united in recent months in opposing Lukashenko's persistent power-grabbing; since Friday, however, when parliament rejected a Russian-brokered compromise, there have been growing fractures in the anti-Lukashenko group. Meanwhile, its remaining members have vowed to resume impeachment proceedings, which could be heard by the Constitutional Court as early as today.