MINSK, August 17. /TASS/. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko visited the Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant to meet with workers amid reports of strikes, according to a TASS correspondent.
During his visit, Lukashenko received a report that plants in the country were mostly operating normally, according to the BelTA news agency.
The Belarusian president stated that no presidential re-election will take place in the country.
"You will not live to see the day I do anything under pressure. There will be no re-election. Because, in that case, there will be no MZKT [Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant], no MAZ [Minsk Automobile Plant] no BelAZ [the quarry truck plant]. Everything will be destroyed in half a year then," Lukashenko said, according to the BelTA news agency.
"You speak about unfair elections and want fair ones?" the president asked. "I have an answer for you. We had the elections. Unless you kill me, there will be no other elections."
Meanwhile the incumbent president vowed readiness to redistribute power through a constitutional process. "Of course, I will go away someday. In a year or two. But we can’t give up the constitution to some nobody. Because it will be a disaster. This is what I am afraid of the most," Lukashenko pointed out, as cited by the BelTA news agency.
Reiterating readiness to "share" powers, the incumbent head of state was clear though that this would never happen under pressure. "We need a new constitution. I’ve been proposed two variants, but rejected both of them, because they barely differ from the current one. The work on the third variant is underway. Come, let’s sit and work on the constitution and put it to a referendum. And I will relegate my powers to you by the constitution. But not under pressure and not through the streets," he said.
When commenting on calls for strikes, the Belarusian president said that "150 and even 200 people don’t set the tone at a plant." "The thing to understand is that the ‘bad’ president has maintained an excessive number of workers to make sure that no one is thrown on the street," Lukashenko noted. "Who wants to work, let them work. And as for those who don’t want to work, we can’t make them," the agency quoted him as saying.
Alexander Lukashenko stood firm saying that protests won’t bring him to his knees, according to an audio recording published by the Tut.by media outlet.
"I can see the way you intend to speak with the president," Lukashenko said. "No offense, but you won’t bring me to my knees. Don’t do anything that will, first and foremost, harm you and your families. You will see it in a week if you create chaos at the facility. Think about what I am saying today and what I told you yesterday. Listen, I have been through it all. I was a director [of a plant] and a common man, I know how it was done in the mid-1990s. Nothing like that will happen in our country," Lukashenko emphasized.
According to a TASS correspondent, the president’s helicopter later left the plant.
Meanwhile, several dozens people have gathered at the plant's gate. Some are holding posters demanding Lukashenko’s resignation. The gathering particularly involves Minsk Cable Networks employees. They expect workers from the Minsk Automobile Plant and the Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant to join them. A man in civilian clothes addressed the gathering on behalf of law enforcement agencies and asked them to leave as they are taking part in an unauthorized activity. However, the people said they would not leave because they had the right to express their opinion.
Belarus held a presidential election on August 9. According to preliminary results, incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko received 80.1% of the vote while his main rival Svetlana Tikhanovskaya garnered 10.12%. Protests erupted in the country's capital of Minsk and several other cities following the presidential vote, leading to clashes between protesters and law enforcement officers. According to the Belarusian Interior Ministry, several thousand people were detained while dozens of police officers and demonstrators suffered injuries. Opposition leaders called for strikes to increase pressure on the authorities.