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Battle of the Fundamental Laws

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We compare the Parliament in the draft Constitution of New Belarus, the current version and the Constitution of 1994

Due to the efforts of Lukashenka, including amending the Constitution, the Parliament in Belarus has not only lost a number of powers. It has de facto turned from an independent body into a "support group" of the dictator. In fact, there are no full-fledged debates in it, and laws, including openly anti-popular and anti-constitutional ones, are most often adopted unanimously.

Like any democratic country, for the normal functioning and development of Belarus, a truly functioning Parliament is needed as a legislative body. Moreover, having suffered from a pronounced presidential republic, Belarusians want to see a really strong Parliament, as evidenced by the results of a recent poll.

Let’s compare the vision of the Parliament in accordance with the draft Constitution of New Belarus, the current edition and the first Basic Law of our state.

Composition and formation of Parliament

C'2004*: Parliament consists of two chambers: lower (House of Representatives) and upper (Council of the Republic). The lower — in the number of 110 deputies — is elected by citizens. The upper one — 64 deputies — partly (56 members) is formed by the local Councils of Deputies, and partly (8 members) is appointed by the president.

C'1994**: Parliament consists of one chamber — the Supreme Council, 260 deputies of which are elected by citizens.

CNB***: Parliament consists of one chamber — the Supreme Soviet, 220 deputies of which are elected by citizens.

Today, the Parliament — the legislature — is largely dependent on another branch of government — the executive, which breaks the system of checks and balances, the basis of any democratic state. In addition, by its very essence, the Parliament should represent the people, and therefore — be elected by the people.

* - The current edition of 2004
** - Constitution of 1994
*** - Draft Constitution of New Belarus

Term of Parliament office

C'2004: 4 years.

C'1994: 5 years.

CNB: 4 years.

It is important to separate the terms of office of the legislative and executive powers in the Basic Law by prescribing either different terms of office (for the Parliament — 4 years, and for the President or Prime Minister — 5 years), or the time gap between election campaigns with the same terms of office. In the case of the current Constitution, we have only decorative adherence to the rules, because the figures of all the deputies are agreed in advance by Lukashenka personally.

Who has the right to submit bills to Parliament

C'2004: President, deputies of the House of Representatives and the Council of the Republic, the Council of Ministers, citizens with 50 thousand signatures.

C'1994: President, deputies of the Supreme Soviet, standing committees of the Parliament, Supreme and Supreme Economic Courts, Prosecutor General, Chamber of Control, National Bank, citizens with 50 thousand signatures.

CNB: Deputies of the Supreme Soviet, parliamentary commissions and factions, the Council of Ministers, citizens with 25 thousand signatures.

The fact that one person (the President) has the right to initiate legislation, especially in the conditions of a puppet Parliament, allows him to decide in his favor those few issues that cannot be regulated by decrees, such as criminal liability or the procedure for holding mass events. At the same time, the Belarusian deputies themselves initiate single bills. Thus, the main function of the Parliament — the representation of the people and the solution of the real problems of the country — is not being fulfilled. The draft Constitution of New Belarus lowers the threshold for civil initiatives and stimulates independent legislative activity of parliamentarians.

Legal force of adopted laws

C'2004: The laws passed by the Parliament have less legal force than the temporary decrees of the president. At the same time, the decree can only be canceled by a majority, if there is at least 2/3 of the votes of the full composition of each of the chambers.

C'1994: The laws passed by the Parliament are more powerful than the decrees of the president.

CNB: The laws passed by the Parliament are more powerful than the decrees of the president.

Giving the president the right to issue decrees and edicts with greater legal force than laws passed by Parliament not only creates grounds for abuse, but is simply illogical. After all, the main legislative body is the Parliament, while the President is the representative of the executive branch.

Features of the adoption of laws

C'2004: Bills on reducing public funds, creating or increasing spending can only be introduced by the president or the government on his behalf. After the adoption of the law by both chambers, it is sent for signature to the President, who can return the draft to Parliament for revision. The president’s objections can be overcome with only 2/3 of the full membership of each chamber.

C'1994: After the adoption by the Parliament, the law is submitted for signature to the President. Parliament can overcome the president’s objections by securing a vote of the 2/3 deputies themselves.

CNB: Prior to the Parliament’s consideration of the law, the participation of citizens in the discussion of the draft should be ensured, with sufficient time for them to submit their proposals. Once passed by Parliament, the law is sent to the President for signature. The objections of the president can be overcome by a simple majority of the constitutional composition of parliament.

According to the norms of the draft Constitution of New Belarus, the easiest way is to overcome the president’s resistance to the law adopted by the people’s deputies, and the obligatory public discussion of bills is enshrined directly in the Basic Law.

Appointment to key positions

C'2004: The House of Representatives gives the President’s consent to the appointment of the Prime Minister. The Council of the Republic appoints 6 out of 12 judges of the Constitutional Court (another 6 are appointed by the president) and 6 out of 12 members of the CEC (the rest, including the chairman, are the president), and also gives consent to the president to appoint the chairman and judges of the Supreme Court, the chairman and members of the board of the National Bank.

C'1994: Parliament gives consent to the president to appoint the prime minister, independently appoints the judges of the Supreme Court, appoints and dismisses all judges of the Constitutional Court, and also appoints the chairman of the board of the National Bank upon nomination by the president.

CNB: Parliament appoints the Prime Minister and the Chairman of the National Bank’s Board on the proposal of the President, as well as all judges of the Constitutional Court from candidates nominated (equally) by the President, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the Chairman of the Supreme Council. At the same time, the Parliament does not participate in the appointment of judges of the Supreme Court — they are elected by the independent National Council of Justice.

Under the current Constitution, the President directly controls the courts and the financial system, and also directly and indirectly controls the electoral process. The draft Constitution of New Belarus provides for mechanisms to ensure maximum independence of these institutions.

Appointment to key positions

C'2004: The Council of the Republic gives the President’s consent to the appointment of the General Attorney. The Parliament does not participate in the appointment of the heads of power and control bodies — they are appointed by the President independently.

C'1994: Parliament independently appoints the General Prosecutor and members of the Control Chamber, and also gives consent to the President to appoint and dismiss the heads of the KGB and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Minister of Defense.

CNB: Parliament appoints the General Attorney on the proposal of the President. He does not participate in the appointment of the heads of law enforcement agencies — this is the function of the prime minister. In addition, the Parliament forms additional control and oversight bodies that are new for Belarus: The Committee for Oversight of the Intelligence and Security Services and the Committee on Civil Service Ethics and Anti-Corruption, the Commissioner for Human Rights.

The draft Constitution of New Belarus strengthens the controlling role of the Parliament, in particular, through the creation of new institutions designed to prevent the imposition of lawlessness of power structures, the flourishing of corruption.

Other constitutional powers

C'2004: House of Representatives:
-jointly with the Council of the Republic submits a proposal to the President on the appointment of republican referendums;
-considers, upon the proposal of the President or at least 150 citizens, draft laws on amending the Constitution;
-approves or rejects the program of the government, may express a vote of no confidence in the government;
-accepts the resignation of the president and brings charges against the president;
approves the state budget and the report on its implementation.

Council of the Republic:
-cancels decisions of local Councils of Deputies if they do not comply with the law, and also in certain cases makes a decision on the dissolution of the local Council of Deputies;
-is considering a charge brought against the President by the House of Representatives.

C'1994: Parliament:
-appoints republican referendums;
-adopts and changes the Constitution;
-approves the republican budget and a report on its implementation, determines the norms for deductions to local budgets;
-has the right to put before the president the question of the resignation of the prime minister or any minister for violating the law.

CNB: Parliament:

-adopts and changes the Constitution;
-expresses confidence or distrust in the government;
-approves presidential decrees on the introduction of martial law and government decisions on the introduction of a state of emergency;
-accepts the resignation of the president, makes a decision on the early release or removal of the president from office;
-decides to hold national referendums.

The draft Constitution of New Belarus restores the powers of the Parliament, lost in the current Constitution, to independently initiate referendums and the impeachment procedure (real, not nominal), and strengthens its role in governing the state.

Dissolution of Parliament

C'2004: House of Representatives may be dissolved by the President for expressing no confidence in the government, two-fold rejection of candidates of the prime minister or government programs. The powers of both chambers may be prematurely terminated by the President upon the conclusion of the Constitutional Court in the event of a systematic or gross violation of the Constitution by deputies.

C'1994: The powers of the Parliament can be terminated ahead of schedule only by itself with at least 2/3 of the votes of the deputies.

CNB: Deputies can independently terminate their powers by approving such a decision by 2/3 of their composition. The President can call early elections to the Parliament, if he has not approved the Prime Minister three times, as well as in the case of the Parliament’s vote of no confidence in the government twice during the year.

The absence of the possibility of self-dissolution under the current Constitution is another sign of the complete dependence of the deputies on the president: they work as much as he wants personally. And early parliamentary elections in the absence of confidence in the prime minister or the government are generally accepted practice, because the Parliament must work with them in an effective connection.

Tell us what you think about this in the comments, and if you have specific ideas or questions, then until September 12, you can leave them:

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