Updated at 16:11,02-12-2016

Belarusian Popular Front elects new chairman

Alyaksey Yanukevich, 33, was elected as the new chairman of the Belarusian Popular Front (BPF) at a convention that the opposition party held in Minsk on September 5.

Mr. Yanukevich received 174 out of a total of 318 votes cast. His rival, Lyavon Barshchewski who chaired the BPF since December 2007, got 144 votes.

Mr. Yanukevich was deputy chairman of the BPF since 2003.

Speaking before the vote, he said: "I am a real, not technical candidate for the post of the BPF chair and I will not restrict my functions to those of a technical leader. I am sure that the party can become a real force that will be able to struggle for power and come to power. We should not trail behind various groups where the BPF took only a back seat."

Mr. Yanukevich criticized the current leadership for its disapproval of BPF members involvement in activities that are carried out by other opposition groups. "It is high time to stop separating ourselves from our members and turning our friends into foes," he stressed.

Mr. Barshchewski said that "95 percent of work to be done by a new chair of the party should focus on promoting its presidential candidate."

When the outcome of the vote was announced, Mr. Barshchewski called on the party to stay united, urging his supporters to refrain from ill-considered moves and stick to the partys program. "I will not withdraw my application for nomination as the BPFs presidential candidate," Mr. Barshchewski said. "I do realize that I should lean on various groups and a majority of BPF members. If there is the majority, I am ready to become the BPFs presidential candidate."

Born in Minsk on June 30, 1976, Alyaksey Yanukevich graduated from Belarusian State Economic University with a degree in Foreign Economic Activities Management in 1997. He joined the party in 1996 and was elected to its board in 1999. Mr. Yanukevich ran in the 2003 and 2007 local elections and the 2004 and 2008 parliamentary elections. During the 2006 presidential campaign, he was a member of opposition candidate Alyaksandr Milinkevich`s team.

Earlier, Mr. Barshchewski said that he would not stand for re-election but concentrate on preparations for the forthcoming presidential election instead.

One more deputy chair of the BPF, Viktar Ivashkevich, submitted his bid to run in the election of the chair, but he withdrew his candidature at the beginning of the convention in favor of Mr. Barshchewski.
At the previous convention, held in December 2007, Mr. Barshchewski was elected chairman as the result of a compromise after neither of the two candidates in the previous days vote, Vintsuk Vyachorka and Ales Mikhalevich, managed to gain 50 percent plus one vote.

Lyavon Barshchewski was born in Polatsk, Vitsyebsk region, on March 4, 1958. He graduated from the Minsk State Teachers Training Institute of Foreign Languages (currently Minsk State Linguistic University) and completed a postgraduate course there for a doctoral candidates degree in 1987. He was a member of the Belarusian parliament (12th Supreme Soviet) between 1990 and 1995.
He was acting chairman of the BPF from 1995 through 1999.