The authorities have published a draft of the updated Constitution. A referendum on the document will be held in the second half of February. The new draft of the Constitution features not only cosmetic changes like "preserving historical truth," but also major changes to the vertical of power.
Euroradio has studied the draft of the new Constitution.
Who will (not) become president
For whoever aspires to the presidency, the updated Constitution has stricter requirements. For example, he or she must now be at least 40 years old (previously he or she was 35). The period a person has to live in Belarus prior to elections is twice as long -- 20 years (previously it was 10 years).
There is a new restriction on the table: a presidential contender must never have had citizenship of another country or even a residence permit. But not only that: it is specified that a person may not be a holder of "any other document of a foreign country that gives the right for benefits and other advantages. The "Card of the Pole" also fits this definition.
A person can be elected for no more than two terms. But the transitional provisions stipulate that this clause will take effect after the term of the current head of state expires. Whether this means that Lukashenka will be able to be "elected" two more times after the Constitution comes into force is a matter of interpretation.
Less presidential power but not by much
The powers of the president can be slightly reduced. For example, they will no longer appoint the CEC members. This will be done by the All-Belarusian People's Assembly.
The president will now be able to appoint the Prime Minister "with the prior consent of the House of Representatives." Previously, there was no word "prior", so, for example, former Prime Minister Syarhei Roomas was approved by Parliament almost two months after his appointment.
The president will no longer be able to appoint chairs of the Constitutional and Supreme Courts. The appointment of the Prosecutor General, the head of the State Control Committee and members of the National Bank Board will also require prior consent. This time of the Council of the Republic.
A new power is added: a catastrophe or natural disaster is no longer necessary to declare an emergency state. The "mass disorder" or "violent change of the constitutional order" will suffice.
The "presidential decree" will no longer be part of the Constitution, and the decrees and ordinances of the head of state will no longer be in conflict with the law.
New centers of power
The Council of the Republic and the National Assembly will have new powers. The House of Representatives, however, loses its powers to remove the President from office. This is now also the prerogative of the All-Belarusian People's Assembly.
The Assembly will be able to approve domestic and foreign policy documents and plans for the country's social and economic development. The delegates will also listen to the president's speeches. In addition, the Assebly will be able to propose amendments to the constitution and give binding instructions to the authorities. It will also be able to cancel legal acts.
The Assembly will appoint the chairmen and judges of the Supreme and Constitutional Courts, as well as members of the CEC. The same body will have the right to raise the issue of the election legitimacy, to call a state of emergency or martial law and to send the Belarusian military abroad. And, as a cherry on the cake, it will give state awards to the President.
The Council of the Republic will not only serve as a cushy job for former presidents (they will be able to become senators for life). Thus, senators will give prior approval to a number of appointments as was mentioned above.
There is an interesting innovation: in case of premature resignation (dismissal, departure or assassination) of the president, his place will be temporarily taken not by the prime minister, as it is now, but by the head of the Council of the Republic. Also, in this case, the head of the upper house will be in charge of the Council of the Republic.
Guarantees for former presidents
In addition to the position in the Council of the Republic, former presidents will become delegates to the All-Belarusian People's Assembly.
The Constitution guarantees immunity, including for a president who has resigned from office as a result of resignation, health reasons, or expiration of his or her term in office.
"A president whose powers have expired cannot be held accountable for actions committed in connection with the exercise of his or her presidential powers," the draft states.
When (and how) all this will come into force
The draft specifies transitional provisions at the end. It explains how the vertical of power will operate after the adoption of the new Constitution.
In short, within two years, laws and other acts will have to be brought in line with the new Constitution. The law on the Supreme National Assembly should be adopted within a year.
Term limits for the president will come into force after the next presidential election. The powers of parliament will also change after the new parliamentary elections. They will now be held on the single day of voting, that is, the last Sunday of February 2024.
In order to "properly set up the operation" of the National Assembly, the current president can be elected as its chairman.
Until the Assembly is formed, the functions of the president and parliament will be performed in accordance with the old version of the Constitution. The Central Election Commission will now oversee the election of Assembly delegates.