Updated at 23:19,25-10-2016

Lukashenka opens Fourth All-Belarusian People's Assembly

Alyaksandr Lukashenka on Monday opened the Fourth All-Belarusian People's Assembly, describing the two-day event as the "highest manifestation of grassroots democracy, which epitomizes historical experience and modern democracy trends."

He said that the delegates to the Assembly represented "all strata" of Belarusian society and were to make decisions on a strategy of the country's development.

Referring to the First All-Belarusian People's Assembly, which took place ahead of the controversial referendum in 1996 that vastly expanded his powers, Mr. Lukashenka said that it was held "in a critical period of the country's life." "It was at this time that while conferring with the people we made our choice - an evolutionary path of creation rather than a 'shock therapy' with people being robbed and the bunch of top-echelon officials enriching themselves," he said.

Speaking about the Second All-Belarusian People's Assembly, which was held before the 2001 presidential election, Mr. Lukashenka noted that Belarus' current "model of development" had been adopted at the event. The event also produced the "idea of building a strong and prosperous Belarus," he said.

The Third All-Belarusian People's Assembly was held ahead of the 2006 presidential election. The delegates to the Assembly adopted a new strategic task of building "a state for the people," Mr. Lukashenka said.

"The decisions made at the previous assemblies have enabled Belarus to become a truly independent state, significantly boost its economic potential, secure progressive social development," he said. "We have covered a huge distance over a short historical period. We have turned the country away from the abyss on the brink of which it found itself in the early 1990s and drawn nearer to the main goal - a high level and quality of life of our people."

Mr. Lukashenka portrayed the period since the previous assembly as a "time of an endurance test for out social, political and economic model of development." He pointed to "economic sanctions and political demarches against our country, attempts at destabilizing the situation through the application of the methods of 'color revolutions' and provocations, trade wars and the global financial and economic crisis." "But we have not let them draw us into some political gambles but worked hard for the sake of good, happiness, the Fatherland's welfare and prosperity," he said.

Mr. Lukashenka announced that the government expected the assembly to adopt a program envisaging an "unprecedented pace of economic growth and an increase in the people's well-being." He expressed certainty that the event would result in "well-considered" decisions that would determine the country's further strategy.