"People's Constitution": why the return of the 1994 Basic Law is not the best option for Belarus
In the context of the "People's Constitution" campaign and the future referendum, some Belarusians are asking the question: should a new draft of the Basic Law be prepared instead of simply trying to return to its 1994 version?
Practice shows that the 1994 Constitution is often idealized only because the Lukashenka’s regime did not have a hand in it and that, among other things, a limitation on presidential terms was spelled out in it. Is this edition really so good that its return will solve all problems and allow building a New Belarus, forever rid of the dictatorship?
At the end, everyone will answer for themselves the above questions. We, in turn, bring to your attention a selection of facts about the 1994 Constitution in order to try to understand this complex, but such an important topic. We also recommend everyone to read the full text of the 1994 edition of the Basic Law.
Looking ahead: the 1994 Constitution allowed the dictatorship to emerge in Belarus, and if this revision is returned, there are no guarantees that after the fall of the current regime we will not get a similar one in the future. We all need not only to fight a specific dictator, but to eliminate any prerequisites for a repetition of the dictatorship in our country.
One of the main tasks of the Constitution is to place "red flags" for the authorities, that is, to define clear restrictions for it. In the 1994 edition, instead of such "red flags", loopholes were left for the president’s actions not prohibited by the Constitution, but contrary to its essence. This ultimately provided the conditions for the formation of the Lukashenka’s regime.
The 1994 constitution contained such statement as:
"The President appoints officials whose positions are determined in accordance with the law, unless otherwise provided by the Constitution."
This is a classic example of a loophole, and this particular clause allowed the president to do anything through the adoption of favorable laws, since the Basic Law did not have a clear list of officials that the president could appoint.
By the way, about the laws. The 1994 edition in many cases referred to laws, allowing with their help to distort the norms laid down in the Constitution. It is because the state today "guarantees" us freedom of peaceful assembly, but with the obligatory agreement with the authorities and, in fact, on a paid basis: subject to payment for the services of the police, ambulance and housing and communal services.
Here’s another example regarding the "red flags". Back in the 1994 Constitution, the president’s right to appoint absolutely all judges was spelled out, except perhaps the judges of the Constitutional Court and the chairmen of the Supreme and Supreme Economic Courts. This right automatically makes the judicial branch of power dependent on the president, which fundamentally breaks the system of checks and balances on which democracy is built.
And one more example. The 1994 constitution designated the president as the single head of the executive branch, and within this branch there was no opportunity to criticize and express alternative opinions. In sum, this gave the president the right to create and abolish entire ministries and departments, allowed him to build an obedient vertical at his own discretion and virtually destroy local self-government.
However, the 1994 Constitution did not provide many opportunities for local self-government — that is, the involvement of citizens in the political process at all levels. Thus, it did not provide for electivity, controllability and reporting of all significant positions "in the field". At the same time, it is logical that it is local residents (and not someone "from above") who should directly influence their lives: both in the role of voters and as candidates for positions in the local government.
The 1994 edition also did not ensure the full functioning of the party system, which opens up wide opportunities for every citizen to participate in the political life of the country, creates true political competition and pluralism.
By the way, the 1994 Constitution was adopted by the Supreme Soviet, and not in a republican referendum. And when it was created, the influence of the communist nomenclature headed by Vyacheslav Kebich was great, who believed that he would win the presidential elections and would lead the country according to this version of the Basic Law. The situation was partly similar to the one we are seeing now, when the current Constitutional Commission is preparing a draft to please Lukashenka.
Thanks to the "People's Constitution" campaign, today, for the first time in history, Belarusians have a real opportunity to write a draft Constitution for the whole people, guided only by their own interests, needs and views. In addition, society has become more educated — and is able to independently figure out what the state should be like.
And the last thing. Legally, we live according to the 1994 Constitution, which was amended in 1996 and 2004. The 1994 Constitution, with the seeds of parliamentarianism embedded in it, was the correct foundation, which, unfortunately, was perverted by the regime. But we can turn in the right direction and already today, on this foundation, immediately build a New Belarus free from the dictatorship. In addition, unfortunately, it will not work simply to correct some "piece" of the Constitution in order to obtain an ideal document, because the powers of some government bodies are inextricably linked with the powers of others.
These are just facts, well, and we suggest you make the conclusions yourself.
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