Constitution of Belarus was adopted 19 years ago
celebrates a national holiday, Constitution Day.
Nineteen years ago, on 15 March 1994, the Supreme Soviet of Belarus adopted a constitution that introduced the country's presidential form of government. During the same year there passed the first-ever presidential election, won by Aliaksandr Lukashenka.
At the national referendum of 24 November 1996, initiated by Lukashenka, the Basic Law was amended and supplemented, as a result of which the countdown of Luashenka's five-year term in office began again, and the Supreme Soviet was transformed into a bicameral parliament – the National Assembly.
The President received the right to appoint six judges to the Constitutional Court and the Central Commission for Elections and Referenda.
Some of the amendments also concerned the powers of the Constitutional Court: the number of institutions possessing the right to initiate proceedings at the Constitutional Court was confined to the President, the government, the chambers of the Parliament, the Supreme Court and the Supreme Economic Court. At the same time, the Constitutional Court was deprived of the right to make any conclusions on its own initiative.
On 17 October 2004 there was held another referendum, as a result of which the restriction on the number of successive presidential terms was removed from the Constitution.
Opposition members believe that all of these changes in the fundamental law were initiated by Lukashenka for one purpose – to establish authoritarian rule in the country.
"In 1996, a coup was factually committed by the organizers of the referendum", says the first judge of the Constitutional Court Mikhail Pastukhou. "The Constitutional Court stated by the majority of votes that itw was inadmissible to put to an obligatory referendum the question of amendment of the Constitution, which was equal to the adoption of a new Constitution, and that the results of the referendum could be considered only as recommendative. Nevertheless, Lukashenka disagreed with it and issued a decree for holding an obligatory referendum".
The leader of "Tell the truth" Uladzimir Niakliayeu, a presidential candidate in the 2010 election, says that the president should not have excessive powers.
"I remember Lukashenka's statements that additional powers of the president were needed only for the period of instability, a difficult economic situation. But now he says that the country is stable, like no other. Hence, there is no more need in the constitutional changes that have been introduced by the referendum," commented the politician.