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    EAST EUROPEAN LEGISLATIVE MONITOR
    
    BELARUS -- JULY 1996, vol. I, no. 4
    
    BILLS
    Mass Media
    Manager of Bankruptcy Procedures
    Creation of New Employment Opportunities
    
    NEW LAWS
    Amendments to the Law "On the Supreme Soviet"
    Amendments to the Law "On the Presidency"
    Amendments to the Law "On the Cabinet of Ministers"
    Amendments to the Code of Administrative Offenses
    Deploying Military and Police Personnel Abroad for International
    Military Exercises and Peace-Keeping Operations
    
    RULES AND PROCEDURES
    Decree: On the Motion of the Constitutional Court "On the Status of
        the Rule of Law in the Republic of Belarus in 1995"
    Creation of Investigative Committees
    
    POLITICAL PARTIES
    Belarus Popular Front Initiates Protests
    Lack of Political Diversity in Supreme Soviet
    Dissatisfaction with Presidential Policy within Pro-Presidential
        Groups
    Ratification of the Belarusian-Russian Treaty
    
    
    FACTS
    Republic of Belarus
    
    Constitution: Ratified March 15, 1994
    
    Head of State: Alyaksandr Lukashenka
    
    Government: Cabinet of Ministers; formed 1994. President nominates
    prime-minister, MP prime ministers, and ministers. Nomination of
    prime minister, MP prime ministers, minister of foreign affairs,
    minister of finance, minister of defense, minister of internal
    affairs, and chief of secret service must be confirmed by the Supreme
    Soviet.
    
    Parliament: Supreme Soviet; 260 seats (199 MPs have actually been
    elected, another 61 are expected to be elected in November).
    
    Major parties in the Parliament: Accord (not a political party per
    se, rather a grouping of pro-presidential MPs), 62 seats (32
    percent); Agrarian Party (AP), 46 Seats (23.3 percent); Belarusian
    Communist Party (BCP), 45 Seats (22.2 percent); Labor Union (LU), 18
    Seats (9.1 percent); Civic Action (CA), 18 Seats (9.1 percent); 10
    MPs are independents.
    
    Last Parliamentary Elections/Next: December 1995/November 1996 (for
    the election of unfilled seats)/2000 (the next general election).
    
    Parliamentary Electoral Formula: majority system with 260
    single-member seats; election in two rounds, winner must win majority
    of registered voters in district.
    
    Legislative Procedure: Initiative: MPs, standing committees of the
    Supreme Soviet, president, Supreme Court, Supreme Commercial Court,
    general prosecutor, Chamber of Control, National Bank, 50,000
    registered voters. Adoption requirements for bills: constitutional
    provisions: 2/3 majority, normal bills: simple majority; President
    has veto, which may be overridden with 2/3 majority.
    
    
    BILLS
    
    The bill ON MASS MEDIA was drafted in order to promote the
    dissemination of information concerning activities of all state
    bodies in the state mass media. The bill entitles the speaker of the
    Supreme Soviet, members of the Constitutional Court, ministers,
    representatives of parliamentary groups, and members of parliament to
    address the public through the state mass media. Until now, only the
    president had this power.
    
    Art. 31.5 provides that: "State TV and radio organizations are
    obliged at least once a month to provide the opportunity for
    representatives of parliamentary groups to address the public. The
    duration of an address shall be at least 30 minutes. Upon the demand
    of MPs, the program can be broadcast live without preliminary
    recording."
    
    The bill ON MANAGERS OF BANKRUPTCY PROCEDURES defines the
    competencies of the person appointed as a manager of bankruptcy
    procedure. Under this bill, the manager would be appointed by the
    Commercial Court in compliance with the law "On Bankruptcy." Art. 2
    of the bill states objectives to be fulfilled by the manager,
    including: "protection of the rights and interests of all creditors
    as well as that of the debtor," and the article regulates the
    procedure for the liquidation of the bankrupt legal person.
    
    The bill ON THE CREATION OF NEW EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES is a largely
    impotent piece of legislation which mainly concerns state programs
    for the development of small and middle-sized businesses. The bill
    declares the necessity to develop these types of businesses, however
    it does not provide any real mechanism to encourage such development.
    
    
    NEW LAWS
    
    The AMENDMENTS TO THE LAW "ON THE SUPREME SOVIET" were passed in a
    package of other constitutional laws. The amendments revise Art. 35.2
    to read: "the decision of the president to announce a state of
    emergency in the country is valid only after approval by the Supreme
    Soviet of the Republic of Belarus."
    
    Art. 65.2 provides for the broadcasting of parliamentary sessions,
    and establishes the responsibility of the state mass media officials
    for violation of their duties: "The decision of the Supreme Soviet
    regarding information about its activity mandates the live
    transmission of parliamentary sessions on radio and TV by the state
    mass media and state mass media officials are held responsible for
    non-fulfillment of this decisions."
    
    The amendment to Art. 110 was adopted in order to guarantee
    additional protection for former MPs opposed to the current
    government: "In order to prevent prosecution for political and civic
    activities, former members of the Supreme Soviet can be charged
    criminal or administrative  crimes only by sanction of the General
    Prosecutor of the Republic of Belarus."
    
    AMENDMENTS TO THE LAW "ON THE CABINET OF MINISTERS" give the speaker
    of the Supreme Soviet, members of the Presidium, and chairmen of
    standing Supreme Soviet committees the right to participate in
    sessions of the Cabinet of Ministers and ministerial meetings. Thus,
    in theory, parliamentary leaders will now be able to influence the
    activities of the executive branch.
    
    AMENDMENTS TO THE LAW "ON THE PRESIDENCY" concern presidential
    elections in case the office becomes vacant before the regularly
    scheduled election. According to Art. 14.2, "Presidential elections
    shall be undertaken not earlier than 30 days and not later than 70
    days after the presidential position becomes vacant."
    
    The LAW ON DEPLOYING MILITARY AND POLICE PERSONNEL ABROAD FOR
    INTERNATIONAL MILITARY EXERCISES AND PEACE-KEEPING OPERATIONS
    requires Supreme Soviet approval for any such deployment (Art. 1).
    The personnel to be deployed must also give their consent in writing
    (Art. 2).
    
    AMENDMENTS TO THE CODE OF ADMINISTRATIVE OFFENSES bring the code in
    line with the new amendments to the law "On the Supreme Soviet " and
    the bill "On Mass Media" to ensure the disclosure of information
    regarding governmental activities. These amendments provide sanctions
    for officials who fail to comply with disclosure requirements.
    
    
    RULES AND PROCEDURES
    
    Considerable tensions between the three branches of power in Belarus
    pushed the Supreme Soviet to adopt the Decree "ON THE MOTION OF THE
    CONSTITUTIONAL COURT: "ON THE STATUS OF THE RULE OF LAW IN THE
    REPUBLIC OF BELARUS IN 1995." In its motion, the Court bemoaned what
    it perceived as the absence of the rule of law and constitutional
    order in Belarus.
    
    According to the motion, "the Constitutional Court deems the present
    situation regarding the rule of law in the Republic unsatisfactory.
    
    The separation of powers principle has not been implemented in
    reality. As a result of the illegal expansion of the power of the
    executive branch, the proper authority of the other branches has been
    undermined. In several cases, laws have been substituted for by
    contrary regulations, which has caused governmental officials to
    violate laws, and has confused the public."
    
    The Court also expressed concern that previous decisions of the
    Court, which invalidated 11 presidential decrees (including "On
    Reformation of the Structure of Local Authorities and Self-Governing
    Bodies," "On Details of the 1995 Budget and Budget Cuts," and  "On
    Measures to Ensure Stability and Legal Order") and unconstitutional
    provisions in several laws ("On Foreign Investments," and the
    Criminal Code), have been ignored by the President, the Supreme
    Soviet, and other governmental officials. The Court called on the
    Supreme Soviet to enforce the motion as well as its previous
    decisions.
    
    In the decree, the Supreme Soviet concurred with the Court's
    conclusions and adopted several enumerated measures to put the motion
    into  effect. These included amendments to the laws invalidated by
    the Court; elaboration of the program designed to bring legislation
    in compliance with the Constitution; the adoption of a law to enforce
    Court decisions and impose sanctions on governmental officials who
    ignore them; and the adoption of a law "On the Drafting, Adoption,
    and Promulgation of Laws and Regulations in the Republic of Belarus."
    
    The Supreme Soviet set up two ad hoc committees to investigate two
    related events in recent Belarusian politics. The committees are to
    address the arrest of Supreme Soviet MP Pavel Znavec, and the mass
    demonstrations which took place in Mensk, March-May 1996. Znavec was
    beaten and arrested by the police, despite his parliamentary
    immunity, during an April 26 demonstration.
    
    
    POLITICAL PARTIES
    
    Political events which took place in Mensk over the last three months
    have revealed the real strength of the Belarusian Popular Front
    (BPF), the largest political party in Belarus. The fact that BPF does
    not hold a single seat in the Supreme Soviet is a clear reminder that
    the Supreme Soviet does not entirely reflect popular preferences. Of
    the more than 3.5 million voters, more than 1 million cast their
    votes for BPF candidates. However, due to the majority system
    electoral system (where a candidate must take the majority of votes
    within a district to be elected), the 50 percent voter participation
    requirement, and the total media monopoly enjoyed by the government,
    elections could not be completed in the majority of electoral
    districts in Mensk and other major cities (including Brest and
    Grodna), where most of the BPF candidates were running.
    
    Together with other opposition forces (including the Social
    Democratic Party, Gramada, and other liberal organizations), the BPF
    initiated a number of demonstrations and civil actions against
    presidential policy and the Belarusian-Russian Treaty. As a result,
    the BPF is in danger of being banned for the initiation of
    unsanctioned rallies. The issue of an arrest warrant forced BPF
    leader Zianon Paznyak into exile; Liavon Barshcheuski was
    subsequently elected as acting head of the party.
    
    The current political makeup of the Supreme Soviet does not allow
    it to be an effective check on the power of the president in Belarus.
    The largest parliamentary group--"Accord"--consists of former members
    of President Lukashenka's administration or other officials loyal to
    him. Together with BCP and AP, they constitute an overwhelming
    majority (77.5 percent) in the Supreme Soviet.
    
    BCP consists of former officials of the Communist Party of the
    Soviet Union-Communist Party of Belarus, which ceased to exist in
    1991.  After the fall of the Soviet Union, the new Belarusian
    Communist Party was established with the old party's property. The
    Agrarian Party represents officials of different agrarian
    enterprises, especially collective farms (kolkhoz) and soviet farms
    (sovkhoz). Supreme Soviet Speaker Syamyon Sharecki leads the AP bloc.
    
    These parliamentary groups have blocked bills to establish a
    market economy and private property, while encouraging President
    Lukashenka's moves to create an alliance with Moscow. However, the
    coalition is not monolithic. Some of Lukashenka's recent actions have
    provoked a negative reaction even within the coalition. For instance,
    Sharecki criticized presidential attempts to impose sole control over
    all branches of power and speed up the creation of confederation or
    federation with Russia. Instead, Sharecki proposed that Belarus
    follow the European Union model of interstate integration with the
    preservation of state sovereignty.
    
    Parliamentary opposition is represented by only two small parties:
    the social democratic bloc, called Labor Union (LU), and the liberal
    Civic Action (CA) party (total 18.2 percent). LU adheres to classical
    social democratic economic and political principles, advocating a
    socially oriented market economy. CA calls for radical, free-market
    reforms. These two groups initiate market reform bills, protest human
    rights violations, and seek to preserve Belarus's independence and
    sovereignty.
    
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    Original content and overall form ©1996-2004 by Peter Kasaty : All Rights Reserved. Last Updated:  1997/08/08
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