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Sep 29, 2021
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Constitutional reform in Belarusian: change everything without changing anything

Constitutional reform in Belarusian: change everything without changing anything

Photo: Victor Drachev / TASS

Belarus has completed the preparation of the draft of the new Constitution, which has been under development since March of this year, the President of the country said. Alexander Lukashenko… Summing up the preliminary results of the work of the Constitutional Commission, he recalled that he himself took an active part in the creation of the new basic law.

“Behind months of hard work, hard work, disputes, claims to each other. A huge number of people, including public associations, responded to our call to take part in the development of the new edition of the Basic Law, ”Lukashenka said.

According to him, not all proposals were taken into account in the draft Constitution, and this issue can be raised during a nationwide discussion, because the basic law is primarily created for the Belarusian people. In conclusion, he recalled that a referendum on the new version of the Constitution will take place no later than February 2022.

In particular, he noted that it is planned to consolidate in the Constitution such a concept as value guidelines that relate to the historical truth and memory of the Great Patriotic War. The president called this innovation “absolutely correct”.

He also expressed his agreement with the preservation of the inviolable constitutional foundations affecting the issues of sovereignty and independence. According to him, the social orientation of the state policy will also be preserved. In addition, Lukashenko expressed confidence that the citizens of Belarus will react positively to the proposal to consolidate guarantees of pension provision, family support, as well as family values ​​and equal opportunities for disabled people.

It’s hard to argue with this certainty, it’s all fine, who objects? But did the Belarusians expect this from him?

– No, all these questions were not raised by the protesters and the opposition, – I’m sure Belarusian political observer Kirill Ozimko. – It was about new elections and about the release of politicians from prison. But the authorities immediately showed that they would not discuss the topic of new elections with anyone, and politicians, for example, Sergei Tikhanovsky, Victor Babariko and Maria Kolesnikova, got quite impressive terms.

Therefore, the discussed constitutional amendments are unlikely to be able to resolve the ongoing political crisis in the republic.

“SP”: – From Lukashenko’s speech one gets the impression that all the amendments concerning, in fact, the elections, the redistribution of powers of the authorities are controversial, everything is damp, needs to be finalized? What does it mean? Will they be in time by February 2022 or will they be postponed all the time under the pretext of being controversial and unprepared?

– Those proposed amendments that have been made public at the present time are really rather damp. This especially concerns the creation of a new government body – the All-Belarusian People’s Assembly. It is unclear how his powers will be combined with other authorities, in what form he will work etc.

It is possible that these moments will not be resolved by February 2022, and the timing of the referendum will be postponed to a later time. But in light of the fact that such amendments are unlikely to resolve the political crisis in the country, this does not really matter. Moreover, the form and essence of power is unlikely to change after the amendments are introduced.

“SP”: – Earlier, one of the “legal” oppositionists, Yuri Voskresensky, published some details of the amendments. It talks about increasing the age and residency of a presidential candidate, moving to a unicameral parliament and a fully proportional system, transferring the rights of impeachment of the president to the All-Belarusian People’s Assembly … Can you trust them?

– Voskresensky is a member of the Constitutional Commission, which works with the authorities. He told about these edits to the state media of the republic. It is unlikely that he purposefully spread fakes – it could be fraught. So you should definitely take a closer look at his information.

“SP”: – They give the impression that the presidential power is only getting stronger, moreover, the opposition is cut off from the theoretical possibility of becoming power …

– In fact, the presidential power in the republic is as strong as one can imagine. And the situation is unlikely to change from what will be spelled out in the Constitution. As there was a rigid hierarchical vertical of power headed by a leader, it will remain so. Moreover, the authorities understand that now is definitely not the time to move towards liberalization and democratization – this would give its opponents more freedom to fight the leadership and a sense of a small moral victory.

The position of the opposition is further complicated by the increase in the residency qualification. According to the amendments that Voskresensky said, in order to be nominated, one must be born in Belarus and permanently live in the country “for at least ten years immediately before the elections.” And all the more or less well-known and experienced opposition leaders are now in exile. This cuts off the way for them to return and enter the pre-election race. But this does not negate the fact that the opposition émigré get-together can find a representative in Belarus and place a stake on him, similar to how they bet on Svetlana Tikhanovskaya – a completely new person in politics, whom no one knew before the elections.

“SP”: – What about the scenario of the president’s castling on the post of head of the National Bank? Isn’t that why he is being handed over such an important instrument of control as impeachment?

– This is a completely possible development of events. Moreover, Lukashenka has repeatedly stated that he will soon leave the presidency and that there will be a new president in the republic. He can head the All-Belarusian Assembly, and thus something similar to the Kazakh transit of power will happen when Nazarbayev de facto remains at the head of state, holding a leading position, but is no longer the president.

This scenario of events in Belarus is widely discussed in the expert community, but no one knows the exact answer to this question. Probably, the authorities themselves have not decided exactly how best to do it.

– Moscow is waiting for a constitutional reform from Minsk to launch an early transit of power and Lukashenka’s departure to the background on the Kazakh model, as well as to form a legislative basis for deepening the integration of the two countries, reminds Evgeny Valyaev, political analyst of the Foundation for the Development of Civil Society Institutions “People’s Diplomacy”… – The rest of the amendments are the initiative of Lukashenka.

The amendments show that Moscow’s expectations are absolutely secondary for Lukashenka, he is busy building a new, higher fortress around his power. The essence of the amendments in their current preliminary form is a complete ban on the opposition, the conservation of the current ineffective political system.

Modern history teaches us that any constitutional reforms are easily nullified if there is a general and active demand for changes in the country. As an example, in the post-Soviet space, in different countries, against the background of general civil protests, constitutional reforms were canceled, returning the main law to its original form. Lukashenka’s reform is precisely aimed at preventing a repeat of the protests that took place after the last presidential elections in the country. When the main task of the constitution is to protect the power of the incumbent elite, then such a constitution will not be viable.

The more complex and ideologized the constitutional reform of 2022 in Belarus is, the less chances that the constitution in this form will last for a long time. The constitution in democracies protects the country from the usurpation of power, and does not serve as a protector of the usurpers.

Did the constitution of the Soviet Union make much sense? No, Soviet power was based primarily on the monopoly of violence and coercion, and not on what is written in the constitution. The situation is the same in modern Belarus – Lukashenka’s power does not depend on what is written in the constitution, his power rests on something else. In such a situation, it is not so important for the Belarusian citizens themselves what will be written there. The main thing is that this constitution will remain in effect as long as Lukashenka is in power. Such a constitution will not give the country a normal competitive political system, namely, all the countries of the post-Soviet space need it in order to keep up with the world leaders – Western democracies.

In the final form of the Belarusian constitutional reform, we will see many sketches from the latest Russian constitutional reform. By this Lukashenka will demonstrate maximum loyalty Vladimir Putin… Marriage only between a man and a woman, the protection of historical memory and other maximally populist articles – Russia and Belarus in the coming years will synchronize their legislative systems as much as possible, starting with the basic law.

Lukashenka’s main OSS is with the Belarusian civil society. People’s demand for change and liberal reforms has not disappeared anywhere. People want a party system, elections, political rights and freedoms. People want to participate in governing the country, to participate in determining the course of the country. The new constitution will not provide the Belarusians with any of this.

Lukashenka will not be without problems pushing for the adoption of a new constitution in a referendum, which could give a surge in new general protests, already taking place under anti-Russian slogans, which was not the case at the protests of 2020.

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