Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 164

Belarus president Aleksandr Lukashenko has released for publication proposed constitutional amendments drafted by a presidential commission, and which he had himself outlined in recent speeches. The amendments are to be submitted to a national referendum which Lukashenko has scheduled for November 7 — the anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution — in an end run around the parliament which enacted the existing constitution in 1994. If adopted, they would in effect give Belarus a new a quite different constitution.

The changes would empower the president to: dissolve the parliament and call parliamentary elections, including anticipated elections; call referenda; appoint one third of the members of an upper parliamentary chamber to be created; automatically dissolve the parliament if it votes no confidence in the government or fails to vote the government into office, or if it twice withholds consent to the appointment of a prime minister; issue presidential decree with the force of law, not subject to parliamentary approval; appoint and dismiss local officials and call local elections; personally appoint 6 out of the 12 members of the Central Election Commission, the "force" ministers, the chairman and 5 of the other 11 Constitutional Court justices, the Prosecutor-General, the chairman and the members of the board of the National Bank; and extend by two years the president’s current term of office.

In speeches and decrees accompanying the release of his draft constitution, Lukashenko has instructed ministries to urgently pay overdue wages and pensions, increase further disbursements by pegging them to the rate of inflation, and set ceilings on the prices of fuel, energy, public transport, milk and bread. No mention has been made as to how this bribing of the electorate is to be paid for.

The government-controlled media are campaigning in favor of the new constitution while its many opponents are being denied media access. On the day of publication of the draft, the government closed down the sole private radio station in the country, Radio FM 101.2, which carried independent newscasts and Belarusan-language programs. The move recalls the closure of the country’s sole independent television station in the runup to the 1995 referendum, in which Lukashenko prevailed with proposals for closer relations with Russia albeit short of an explicit policy mandate. (Belaplan, Interfax, August 31 through September 4)

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