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Battle of the Basic Laws

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


Who can be president


C'2004*: A citizen of Belarus by birth not younger than 35 years old, having the right to vote and permanently residing in the country for at least 10 years immediately before the elections.

C'1994**: Citizens of Belarus are at least 35 years old, have the right to vote and have lived in the country for at least 10 years.

CNB***: Citizens of Belarus are at least 35 years old and have the right to vote.

The most stringent requirements for the figure of the president are made by the current Constitution, in fact, cutting off the opportunity to run for a lot of citizens. The draft Constitution of New Belarus is aimed at making the competition for this post as high as possible.

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

Who can nominate a presidential candidate


C'2004: Citizens with at least 100 thousand signatures.

C'1994: At least 70 MPs or citizens with at least 100 thousand signatures.

CNB: Parties that have a faction in Parliament, or citizens by collecting signatures. The number of signatures will be established by a separate law, and not directly by the Constitution.

We see New Belarus as a country with a full-fledged party system, because this is the only way to ensure the real participation of citizens in the political life of the country on a regular basis, and not only during elections. At the same time, non-partisan citizens should also be able to nominate a presidential candidate.

Terms of office of the president


C'2004: Duration of one term: 5 years. Limitation on the number of terms: none.

C'1994: Duration of one term: 5 years. Limit on the number of terms: no more than 2.

CNB: Duration of one term: 5 years. Limitation on the number of terms: no more than 2 during the whole life.

Limiting the number of presidential terms not only ensures the turnover of power, which is important for the development of any country. This is also a deterrent for the president, because after a maximum of 10 years, he will again become an ordinary citizen, will be deprived of immunity and will be held accountable for his crimes before the law.

Appointment of ministers, deputy prime ministers, government members


C'2004: The President appoints the Prime Minister with the consent of the House of Representatives, and dismisses him independently. Deputy Prime Ministers, Ministers and Government Members are personally appointed by the President.

C'1994: The President appoints the Prime Minister and his deputies, all ministers and members of the government with the consent of the Supreme Council.

CNB: The President only proposes to Parliament the candidacy of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is appointed by the Parliament, and not necessarily from among the candidates nominated by the President. The president does not participate in the appointment of deputy prime ministers, other ministers and members of the government.

Even in the 1994 Constitution, let alone the current one, the president had too many opportunities to create a loyal "top" of the executive branch. These are big risks for democracy. The draft Constitution of New Belarus proposes to significantly weaken the role of the president in this direction.

Appointment of the Prosecutor General and judges


C'2004: The President appoints the General Prosecutor and the full composition of the Supreme Court with the consent of the Council of the Republic, and dismisses them only with its notification. The president also appoints half of the judges and, with the consent of the Council of the Republic, the chairman of the Constitutional Court, with the right to dismiss all members of this court. The rest of the judges are appointed by the President himself and dismissed at his discretion.

C'1994: The President proposes to Parliament candidates for the positions of the Chairmen of the Supreme and Constitutional Courts, independently appoints and dismisses judges of non-higher courts. The General Attorney, judges and chairmen of the highest courts are appointed and dismissed by Parliament.

CNB: The President submits candidates to the Parliament for the posts of the Prosecutor General and 5 judges of the Constitutional Court. The President does not take any part in the appointment of the remaining judges.

Now the judiciary is completely dependent on the president — the head of the executive branch, which fundamentally contradicts the principle of separation of powers and destroys the system of checks and balances. In New Belarus, the president’s influence on the judicial system will be minimized.

Appointment of other key figures


C'2004: The President independently appoints half of the CEC members (including the chairman), members of the State Control Committee, heads of the KGB, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Defense, as well as, with the consent of the Council of the Republic, the chairman of the National Bank’s board.

C'1994: The President only proposes to Parliament the candidacy of the Chairman of the Board of the National Bank, and also appoints the heads of the KGB, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Defense with the consent of the Parliament. The president does not participate in the appointment of members of the CEC and the Control Chamber (analogous to the KGK).

CNB: The President appoints only 1/5 of the CEC members, only proposes to Parliament the candidacy of the Chairman of the Board of the National Bank, and also appoints the high command of the Armed Forces with submission to the Council of Ministers. He does not participate in the appointment of the heads of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the KGB, members of the Control Chamber.

Today, the president controls all key state bodies — this is a direct road to dictatorship. The draft Constitution of New Belarus makes most of the most important structures in the country independent of its figure.

Appointment of heads of local authorities


C'2004: The President appoints the heads of local executive and administrative bodies of power. Formally, they must be approved by local councils of deputies, but in practice there is no rejection procedure. Local councilors are elected by citizens, but elections are held by the president-controlled CEC.

C'1994: Deputies to local councils are elected by citizens. This edition did not provide for the procedure for appointing chairman of executive committees, but in accordance with the law they were also appointed by the president with the approval of local councils of deputies.

CNB: The President does not participate in the formation of local government bodies. Deputies are elected by citizens and form the executive bodies of local government.

If the president directly influences the composition of local authorities, there can be no talk of any real self-government. The draft Constitution of New Belarus gives the green light to real self-government.

Legislative powers


C'2004: The President calls referendums on his own initiative and can call extraordinary sessions of the Parliament. It issues decrees that have a higher force than laws, and has the right to initiate legislation, including amendments and additions to the Constitution.

C'1994: The President has the right to propose to the Supreme Council to call a referendum. It issues, within the limits of its powers, decrees and orders that have less legal force than laws, and has the right to initiate legislation, including on amendments and additions to the Constitution.

CNB: The President calls referendums on the proposal of the Supreme Council or at least 250 thousand citizens. It issues decrees and orders that must not contradict the Constitution and laws (and many decrees must be endorsed by the Prime Minister). Does not have the right to initiate legislation.

Due to the presence in the 1994 Constitution of the right of legislative initiative to amend the Basic Law, Lukashenko was able to prepare the Constitution, according to which, in fact, he rules to this day, in 2 years of his presidency. The draft Constitution of New Belarus excludes the possibility of changing legislation, including the Basic Law, at the request of one person.

Early removal from office


C'2004: The President may be prematurely removed from office for committing high treason or other grave crime. The accusation must be initiated by at least 1/3, and supported by the majority of the full composition of the House of Representatives. The dismissal must be voted on by at least 2/3 of the full composition of the House of Representatives and the Council of the Republic.

C'1994: The President can be early removed from office for violation of the Constitution or any crime. The procedure is initiated by at least 70 out of 260 members of Parliament. The President is considered removed if at least 2/3 of the full composition of Parliament voted for it.

CNB: The President can be removed from office for violation of the Constitution. The question is initiated by at least 1/3 of the full composition of the Parliament, and at least 2/3 of the deputies must vote for the removal. In addition, the president can be temporarily removed from office by a simple majority in Parliament.

Due to the dependence of the Council of the Republic on the president, the removal of the latter is now practically unrealistic. The Belarusians should be able to freely remove the president if he violates the law, especially the Basic one.

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