VILNIUS – Belarusian opposition organizations are setting up a coordination center in Vilnius in response to a constitutional referendum due to take place in Belarus next month.
The organizations made the announcement during a joint news conference in the Lithuanian capital.
According to Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Belarus' authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko is calling the referendum to change the constitution so that he can maintain his grip on power.
"In our opinion, this is an attempt to hold on to power, but this does nothing to solve the political, economic and humanitarian crisis and people's problems," Tsikhanouskaya said in the news conference.
"This is not a choice between yes and no; this is simply a proposal to choose between Lukashenko and Lukashenko," she said. "This is not what Belarusians have fought for and continue to fight for. Belarusians want to live in a normal, safe and secure country, and they want new, fair presidential elections."
According to Tsikhanouskaya, the Belarusian opposition's Coordination Council and the National Anti-Crisis Management on Thursday sent a letter to international organizations and other partners, calling on them to "not recognize the so-called referendum", to support the demands of the opposition and other Belarusians to release all political prisoners, hold new presidential elections, and to step up pressure on the regime as repression continues.
"We invite all citizens to go to the polling stations and invalidate their ballot papers by marking all the proposed options," she said.
The referendum is planned to be held on February 27.
The proposed amendments would reinstate presidential term limits, previously abolished by Lukashenko, to two five-year terms, but they would only apply to the winner of the next president election.
If the 67-year-old authoritarian leader, who has held the post of Belarus' president since 1994, decided to run for re-election in 2025, he could remain in power for another ten years.