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Members of the Belarusian Constitutional Commission during a meeting at the National Library of Belarus on March 21, 2021
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Third time’s a charm The authorities in Belarus want to amend the constitution (again)

Source: Meduza
Members of the Belarusian Constitutional Commission during a meeting at the National Library of Belarus on March 21, 2021
Members of the Belarusian Constitutional Commission during a meeting at the National Library of Belarus on March 21, 2021
Maxim Guchek / BelTA / TASS / Scanpix / LETA

In his 27 years as president, Alexander Lukashenko (Alyaksandr Lukashenka) has held two referendums on amending Belarus’s Constitution. Now, still in the aftermath of last year’s highly contested election, he’s gearing up for another constitutional ballot in 2022. Since March, a newly created Constitutional Commission has been working on proposed amendments to Belarus’s basic law. According to the commission’s head, Constitutional Court Chairman Pyotr Miklashevich, they’re going to send their list of ideas to Lukashenko on July 22. Meduza summarizes the proposed amendments here.

The Belarusian authorities are proposing the following amendments to the constitution:

  • Increasing the age and residency requirements for presidential candidates. The president must be a citizen of Belarus over the age of 40 (the current constitution stipulates 35), who has lived in the country for at least the past 20 years (as opposed to 10 years) preceding the election. A person will be able to serve as president for no more than two terms (currently, there are no term limits).
  • Limiting the legislative functions of the president by prohibiting him from issuing decrees that have the force of law.
  • Consolidating the status of the All-Belarusian People’s Assembly as the highest representative body of democracy. Giving the assembly the right to consider the issue of the legitimacy of presidential elections in Belarus, as well as the right to impeach the president if he has committed high treason or another grave crime.
  • Prescribing in the constitution that “marriage is a union between a woman and a man.”
  • Increasing parliamentary terms from four years to five years and reducing the annual number of parliamentary sessions from two to one (a single session that will run from September to June). 
  • Expanding the powers of the prime minister by strengthening his role in the formation of the government and in the budgetary sphere.
  • Establishing an institution of human rights commissioner.

Belarus adopted its current constitution in 1994. Since then, Alexander Lukashenko has amended it twice — in 1996 and 2004. These changes dramatically expanded the powers of the president, and removed the limit on the number of presidential terms. On both occasions, the amendments to the constitution were adopted through referendums initiated by Lukashenko himself. 

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Story by Alexander Baklanov

Translation by Eilish Hart

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