Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 208

Belarus president Aleksandr Lukashenko yesterday accused the Constitutional Court of "grossly violating the constitution" because of a verdict reached by the court that deprived a planned constitutional referendum of legal value. The Court "played the role assigned to it by opponents of the people’s will," Lukashenko charged in a presidential address. He vowed to conduct the November 24 referendum, which would grant Lukashenko sweeping powers. Lukashenko also signed a decree declaring that the referendum’s result would be legally binding, that it would immediately be signed into law by the president without requiring any parliamentary confirmation, and that it would not be subject to revision except by another referendum plus presidential consent.

In an 8 to 3 vote the preceding day the Court had ruled — despite pressure from the president — hat the planned constitutional referendum could only have a consultative character. It also declared that the referendum’s result would not be legally binding and that any follow-up action to amend or revise the constitution would be up to the parliament. (Belaplan, Interfax, November 4 and 5)

The Court was responding to parliament chairman Syamyon Sharetsky’s request for a ruling on the constitutionality of the planned referendum. The ruling was supposed to consider rival constitutional drafts submitted by the president and the parliament. The parliament is now all but certain to withdraw its constitutional draft from consideration and to confirm its allegiance to the existing constitution. Lukashenko’s government, exacerbating the tension, is withholding funds from parliamentary by-elections also scheduled for November 24.

Ukraine-Georgia: "Special Relations" to Buttress Each Other’s Independence.