Country’s beleaguered president says his introduction ‘will be in the textbooks’
Minsk’s revised constitution will come into force in mid-March, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has revealed, following a nationwide vote on the proposed changes. However, critics have warned that the amendments pave the way for the longtime leader to maintain his grip on power.
In a statement on Friday, the veteran leader of the former Soviet Republic welcomed the outcome of the February 27 referendum. According to the electoral commission, 65% of Belarusians who voted favored the revisions.
“This event will go down in the textbooks as another milestone in the development of a sovereign country,” Lukashenko proclaimed, adding that “it is very symbolic that the amended constitution will come into effect on March 15 – Constitution Day.” The Mid-March holiday is celebrated annually to mark the approval of the Minsk Basic Laws on the date in question in 1994.
Under the new constitution, the leader of Belarus will only be able to serve two five-year terms. This change only applies to “newly elected presidents”, however, paving the way for Lukashenko to rule for another decade, should he decide to run again after his current term ends in 2025. Former presidents will also have the benefit of becoming senators for life and immunity of prosecution for all actions taken while in office.
Additional amendments will see the role of the so-called All-Belarusian People’s Assembly strengthened, turning it into the country’s highest representative body. It currently functions as a general government summit where senior officials and industry leaders meet every five years. However, under the changes, he will have the power to impeach the president and appoint members of the Supreme and Constitutional Courts, as well as the Central Election Commission.
The assembly will also be able to lay the groundwork for domestic and foreign policy, military doctrine and national security. Following the proposed changes, Western-backed opposition figure Svetlana Tikhanovskaya claimed that Lukashenko would be able to “secure power supply [and] controlling the situation through the artificial All-Belarusian People’s Assembly.
Minsk strongman, in power since 1994, told officials in September that his government would present the revisions “so that we cannot be accused of clinging to power until our hands turn blue…and playing with this constitution for our own benefit.”
However, the West has already said it will not recognize the referendum results, and the EU has previously condemned the August 2020 election, which saw tens of thousands take to the streets to demand a new vote after beleaguered Belarusian leader. declared a landslide victory.
Brussels called the presidential race neither free nor fair and refused to acknowledge its legitimacy. The bloc then imposed sanctions on individuals “identified as responsible for the repression and intimidation against peaceful protesters, opposition members and journalists… as well as the misconduct of the electoral process”.
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