Speech of Alexander Lukashenko to announce the 2004-referendum in Belarus

Dear compatriots,
Pursuant to the Constitution of our State currently in force, I have signed into action the Decree on the holding of the nationwide referendum.
It will take place on the 17th of October this year. Why has this very date been chosen?

As you know, the 17th of October is the date for the holding of elections to the Belarusian parliament. It is a wide-scale, responsible and politically important campaign. Elections both mobilize, unite the society and divert it away from current problems. To avoid such a digression and not to interrupt you in implementing the tasks put forward before you and your families, it has been decided to combine the forthcoming elections with the referendum. What is more, it will make it possible for us to avoid extra expenditures by combining together these events.

One question is going to be submitted to the referendum and this is how it reads:
"Do you allow the first President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko to participate in the presidential election as a candidate for the post of the President of the Republic of Belarus and do you accept Part 1 of Article 81 of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus in the wording that follows: "The President shall be elected directly by the people of the Republic of Belarus for a term of five years by universal, free, equal, direct and secret ballot?"
As I had promised you before, in case I decide to participate in the 2006 presidential election, I will necessarily take your advice and ask for your permission. And I am acting appropriately.

I have not attempted designing various schemes and combinations, I am acting honestly and, as always, openly. Whereas you, whenever asked, have always been supporting me. It is thanks to full mutual understanding between the Head of State and the people that we have attained definite results in our development.
Just look back at the times that were ten years ago.
Major enterprises used to work only for 2-3 days a week. The average monthly wages and salaries totaled 20-25 dollars. Pensioners used to have half a year's arrears in pension payments. There were many months' arrears in wages and salary payments. Plunderage of the people's economy was gaining force. The Army, the law-enforcement system were being collapsed while persons wearing shoulder straps, defenders of the Fatherland, were placed into a humiliating situation.
The feeling of distress and despair prevailed amongst the majority of the people.
I am far from claiming that for all these years everything was being done properly. There were mistakes and shortcomings. I acknowledge them and feel them keenly.
But not only did we take the people away from the abyss - our country has firmly entered the path of construction, of consistent development.
Our State is steadily moving forward, thanks to its own toil, without making debts.
All major enterprises are working in their full capacity. Their products are in demand both in the East and in the West. We have extended the Belarusian positions in the most prestigious segments of the global market.
Yes, indeed, we are not living a wealthy life yet. But the welfare of our Belarusian families is growing increasingly.

As it was planned, the average monthly wages and salaries will reach nearly US$ 200 by the end of the current year, while the following year they will necessarily reach US$ 250. Pensions will rise, scholarships too.
Families with many children will get enhanced support, especially with regard to housing they will be provided.
When you start thinking over whether you will turn up at the referendum and what your vote will be, put a question to yourselves: do you want to finish the construction of our home for our children whose foundation had been laid by us together? A tranquil and cosy home, where peace and harmony reign.
Just look around: the entire Belarus looks like an enormous construction site. Getting better and developing are Minsk, regional, district centers, and villages. With our own hands, we are transforming Belarus into one of the most beautiful parts of Europe.
We have preserved villages, we have supported peasants. Nearly 6 million metric tons of grain harvest last year and over 7 million tons this year imply great work behind, not only favourable weather.
Our country has reached the results which make it possible to really resolve a large-scale and qualitatively new problem of reviving villages.
Such deeds have never been performed, nor will they be performed by way of a "self-flow". All this work will be failure-doomed without an everyday and most energetic pressing of the President, of all the leaders of our State.

Telling you all this, I am worry about our country being very vulnerable. Belarus, with its clean lakes, natural forests, with the unplundered national economy is attracting avid interests from all sides. I recognize very well the people who since long ago, to put it simply, "have been eating their way through the soil" to come to power in 2006. I know where, from whom, and with what kind of promises they obtain money. The plans of their sponsors are also understandable. It is regarded as a profitable investment. If they succeed in promoting to the post of the President a person they feed, they'll get Belarusian plants, factories, our entire country and our land.
Over the recent years, I have not had a more important work than that you made it my duty - to guard our Belarus. To make it clean, rich and beautiful, to protect it from infringements of those who dislike our calm and creative style of life.

And for all these years I have been holding with care and reverence this radiant and fragile vessel whose name is Belarus. I am carrying it, and am afraid of dropping it, so fragile and vulnerable it is.
You cannot but agree that we would not like this purity and beauty created by us to fall into the hands of an irresponsible and incidental politician.
That is why I am putting the above-mentioned question to you at the referendum.
Another point. A new century has brought new threats, with terrorism being the most horrible of them. Innocent people, women, children die, or become cripples.
What has happened in Russia is viewed by us as our own grief.
The mightiest powers have failed to guard themselves against this plague of the 21st century. Just recall what had been done by the terrorists to the United States three years ago. Every day, we get reports of deaths, kidnappings of citizens of the states which participate in the occupation of Iraq.
May God protect us - over these ten years no Belarusian has become a victim of a terrorist act, of an armed conflict. We have guarded our country against involvement into international adventures which could threaten your lives and security even to a smallest degree.
This is our greatest achievement.
Therefore at the referendum you will be voting for the security of our country, for the life and health of your children and grandchildren.

Finally, the opposition members striving for power will be trying to convince you that Lukashenko seizes power treacherously and contrary to the Constitution, wanting to be the President until the end of his life. Remember: today the question is not in electing the President, not in extending the term in office - we will be having elections in summer of 2006. The question regards my right as a citizen and President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko to participate in the elections to come. And such a right can be granted to me, according to our Constitution, only by yourselves…
There will be plenty of advisers eagerly wanting experiments and dislocations.
But it is you who are to decide - with your heart and mind.
Think it over!
I wish you happiness, peace, and restful soul.
Your President.