“The draft Constitution will be ready just about”, - Lukashenko said, specifying that it will be discussed at the national level.
By the way, Belarusians have changed their Constitution more than once. In 1995 (a year after Lukashenko took office as president), the first referendum was held. According to its results, the head of state received the right to dissolve parliament ahead of schedule. A year later, a second referendum was held. The president again received additional powers, including the right to appoint and dismiss ministers, the prosecutor general, judges and the leadership of the National Bank. In 2004, a referendum was held in Belarus again. This time, the head of state received the right to run indefinitely.
What amendments are the authors of the new Constitution of the Republic of Belarus going to make?
In July, the constitutional commission put on Lukashenko's table the first draft of amendments, which proposed to amend 59 out of 146 articles of the Constitution and add 16 more new articles. A significant part of the amendments at that time had no direct relation to the political structure. For example, the authors decided, for example, to prohibit same-sex marriage, to oblige parents to "prepare children for socially useful work and inculcate culture", etc. In addition, it was argued that Belarus is a neutral state and at the same time it "can enter military blocs"...
A radical redistribution of the president's powers did not work out. The project proposed to preserve the presidential form of government. The main one was the proposal to limit the tenure of the presidency to two terms. The rest of the changes were cosmetic. And we must pay tribute to Lukashenko - he rejected these proposals of the members of the constitutional commission.
Nevertheless, some observers in Russia believe that the transition of power and the transformation of the political system can begin with the renewal of the Basic Law in Minsk. And in the West, Alexander Grigorievich was simply not believed, especially after the interview he gave on September 30 to the correspondent of the American television company CNN in Minsk.
“It is necessary to change the Constitution, because the powers that the head of state have are very difficult for one person”, - Lukashenko suddenly admitted.
According to him, he built Belarus as best he could, and is not going to just give it up for abuse. "We'll have to hold open elections, after the Constitution and putting in order the laws," the president promised. Arkady Moshes, director of the EU Eastern Neighborhood and Russia research program at the Finnish Institute of International Relations, Arkady Moshes, in an interview with Deutsche Welle, suggested that the Belarusian leadership "does not want to actually launch the transit process". “It wants to reformat the system in such a way that Lukashenko retains all the power levers and political means that would allow him to feel calm in Belarus after the constitutional changes”, - Moshes said.
If this is the case, then the new Constitution is unlikely to be satisfactory for at least half of the population of the country that voted against Lukashenko in 2020 and went to protest rallies, the expert said.
The director of the Political Sphere Institute in Minsk, political scientist Andrey Kazakevich agreed that theoretically the renewal of the Constitution could become a serious step in overcoming the political crisis and normalizing the situation in the republic. But, according to the expert, this would be possible if both supporters and opponents of Lukashenko were included in the dialogue.
“The development of the new draft Constitution took place in conditions of repression, with the unprecedented use of violence and the introduction of an informal martial law. All this, of course, makes the atmosphere for the referendum even more complicated and contradictory from a political point of view”, - Kazakevich stressed.
Political scientist Dmitry Bolkunets said that the Belarusian authorities see "an opportunity to resolve the political crisis by updating the Constitution". However, it is necessary to see how this process will proceed, to what extent society will take it seriously and what the consequences may be, the expert emphasized.
Meanwhile, at a meeting with members of the constitutional commission, Lukashenko said that the draft Basic Law does not yet contain a fundamental solution to the issue of the distribution of powers, which means that the actual essence of the draft is still missing.
According to Bolkunets, the Belarusian authorities are delaying the holding of the constitutional referendum, and it is possible that this event may be postponed again. At the same time, the political scientist is convinced that Lukashenko will try to use the voting for the new Constitution as an argument that his rule is legitimate: "they say, no matter what they say“, they supported me in the presidential elections, and even more under the Constitution”.
In turn, expert Moshes does not exclude the option when it will be announced that the majority of Belarusians “will vote against the amendments to the Constitution, and thus the old Constitution will remain. It will be very difficult to find fault". In this case, Lukashenko will remain with the old Constitution and the old scope of powers. Population protests will only intensify.
Nikolai Mezhevich, head of the Center for Belarusian Studies at the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences, noted that the situation in Belarus remains difficult. “On the one hand, the authorities kept the country from becoming chaotic. On the other hand, the problems have not gone away, and many of those who disagree, while remaining in the republic, continue to gradually advance their agenda. I think Lukashenko himself understands that it is impossible to get out of the political crisis without serious changes. Probably, in one form or another, the transit of power will still be carried out. It is only important that it be accurate, manageable, go for the good, and not for the destruction of the country”, - the expert said.
Political scientist Andrey Suzdaltsev, in an interview with a correspondent of Novye Izvestia, recalled that Alyaksandr Grigorievich announced the timing of the referendum on September 28, and on the same day in Minsk two men were killed during a special operation of the Belarusian security forces. This shooting, according to the expert, unfortunately, is a natural phenomenon in the process, albeit a slow, but steady slide of the Belarusian society to civil war. The regularity lies in the fact that the parties to the conflict simply have no way out.
"So, Lukashenko has started the final "polishing" of the Basic Law of the Republic of Belarus. It is curious that the “key” issues were adjusted: the status of the All-Belarusian People's Assembly, which practically nullifies the Belarusian parliament, including its upper house. It, in turn, turns into a “refuge” for those who can go to trial, as well as the fate of Lukashenko himself. There are also some kind of constitutional guarantees. In particular, Lukashenko proposed to grant the VNS the right to amend the Constitution. Considering the status of the head of the VNS, it turns out that only Lukashenko himself will change the Constitution without any referendum. In other words, the monarch "gives" the people the Constitution. Thus, the February referendum may become the last of the real exit of the Belarusian electorate to the ballot boxes, the expert believes.