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    EAST EUROPEAN LEGISLATIVE MONITOR
    
    Introduction -- October 1996, vol. I, no. 6
    
    We must, unfortunately, inform our readers that this October issue
    will be the last issue of the East European Legislative Monitor in
    its present form. The Constitutional and Legislative Policy Institute
    has decided to suspend publication of the journal for the present
    time so that we can reconsider how the EELM could be better provide a
    substantial reform policy function. There is a good possibility that
    the EELM may be revived in a different form at a later date. At that
    time all current subscribers of the EELM will be informed of the
    possibility resubscribe to any new publications.
    
    
    BELARUS -- OCTOBER 1996, vol. I, no. 6
    
    BILLS
    Amendments to the Law "On General Voting (Referendum)"
    Interpretation of Articles 125 and 127 of the Constitution
    Administrative Surveillance of People Released from Prison
    Amendments to the Law "On the National Bank"
    
    LAWS
    Amendments to the Law "On the Election of Members of the Supreme
         Soviet"
    Amendments to the Law "On Pensions for Military Personnel,
         Low-ranking and High-ranking Officers of the Ministry of
         Internal Affairs"
    Amendments to the Law "On Internal State Debt"
    Amendments to the Law "On the Budget"
    Decree "On the Holding of the National Referendum on November 24,
         1996"
    Decree "On the Election of the Head of the Central Commission for
         Elections and National Referendums"
    
    
    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 Parliament: Accord (not a political party per se,
    rather a grouping of pro-presidential MPs), 62 seats; Agrarian Party
    (AP), 46 seats; Belarusian Communist Party (BCP), 45 seats; Labor
    Union (LU), 18 seats; Civic Action (CA), 18 seats; 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 AMENDMENTS TO THE LAW "ON GENERAL VOTING (REFERENDUM) IN THE
    REPUBLIC OF BELARUS," which were submitted by the Committee on
    Statehood and Local Self-Government, were passed by the Supreme
    Soviet.
    
    As expected, the president vetoed the bill, and now the Supreme
    Soviet intends to override the veto in October.  The existing law
    passed in 1992, contains several provisions in violation of the
    Constitution, according to the Constitutional Court. Thus, Art. 8 of
    the law regulating activities of the territorial commissions on
    referenda has been amended by the following provisions:  "The
    Commission shall not restrict any activities of observers if they
    do not violate laws and civil order. Mass media totally or partly
    financed by, and acting on behalf of, the government is obliged to
    provide equal opportunities for agitation for or against any issue
    put to a referendum." However, the amended draft does not provide a
    mechanism to ensure such equal opportunities.
    
    Article 31.6 provides that:  "Where any citizen enjoying the right to
    vote in a referendum is unable to come to the polling station, the
    corresponding territorial Commission on Referenda shall arrange to
    transport such a citizen to the polling station and back on the day
    of the referendum at the written request of the citizen. Arrangement
    of voting beyond the polling station is prohibited". The present law
    allows arrangement of voting beyond the building where voting takes
    place by taking the ballot boxes to voters' homes. Presumably, this
    provision has given rise to numerous abuses during referendum
    campaigns.
    
    The amendments attracted strong criticism from the president, hence
    the subsequent veto.
    
    The bill ON INTERPRETATION OF ARTICLES 125 AND 127 OF THE
    CONSTITUTION
    OF THE REPUBLIC OF BELARUS has been submitted by the Committee on
    Statehood and Local Self-Government. The need for such a bill was due
    to numerous motions by the Constitutional Court to the Supreme Soviet
    requesting clarification on whether all presidential decrees are
    within the competence of the Constitutional Court or only those of a
    normative character. Parliament passed the bill once, and is now
    attempting to override the presidential veto.
    
    Article 1.1 of the interpretation states that:  "Only acts,
    stipulated by Articles 125 and 127 of the Constitution of normative
    character (normative acts) are subject to constitutional
    control by the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Belarus."
    
    The bill considers normative acts to be those that are: "passed by
    the empowered state authorities, governmental officials, and
    other executive bodies which consist fully or partly of mandatory
    norms and rules of behavior applicable to indefinite groups of people
    for an unlimited period of time."
    
    The president has used his veto powers with increasing frequency, and
    the majority of recent bills passed by Parliament have fallen victim
    to the veto.
    
    The bill ON ADMINISTRATIVE SURVEILLANCE OF PEOPLE RELEASED FROM
    PRISON, submitted by the Committee on National Security and Defense,
    failed to pass. The Supreme Soviet returned the bill to the Committee
    with a request to bring it into compliance with the Constitution. The
    submitted bill would have violated several constitutional provisions.
            Thus, Art. 7, stipulating the system of administrative
    surveillance, grants excessively wide powers to police officers. For
    example, police officers are entitled to summon people released from
    prisons for interrogations, to carry out such interrogations in the
    presence of their relatives and employers, to request written
    explanation of any question concerning the system of administrative
    surveillance, and to enter the homes of such people at any time of
    the day. Article 10.a forbids people released from prison to leave
    their dwellings for a specified time, and Art. 10.b forbids the
    presence of such people in specified areas of cities.
            According to a majority of the deputies, the above-mentioned
    provisions violate constitutional rights and freedoms such the as
    freedom of movement and the inviolability of dwellings.
    
    The AMENDMENTS TO THE LAW "ON THE NATIONAL BANK OF THE REPUBLIC OF
    BELARUS," submitted by the Committee on Budget, Taxes, and Finances,
    were intended to define the competence of the Supreme Soviet with
    respect to control over the National Bank. Despite the fact that the
    National Bank is de jure under control of the Supreme Soviet, it is
    de facto subordinate to the president, especially regarding issuance
    of money into circulation.
            Article 9 provides that: "The Supreme Soviet of the Republic
    of Belarus has the right to dismiss the Head of the Board of the
    National Bank in the following cases:
       a. Expiration of the term of office;
       b. Inability to carry out his or her duties (on the basis of a
          medical certificate);
       c. Personal application for dismissal;
       d. Committing a crime;
       e. Violation of the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus or
          laws regulating activities of the National Bank (on the basis
          of a decision of the Constitutional Court)."
    
    
    LAWS
    
    The AMENDMENTS TO THE LAW "ON THE ELECTION OF MEMBERS OF THE SUPREME
    SOVIET OF THE  REPUBLIC OF BELARUS," submitted by the Committee on
    Statehood and Local Self-Government, was intended to change the
    number of accredited representatives allocated to candidates (an
    accredited representative is an assistant to an MP with various
    duties, including communication with voters and media). The law was
    proposed in order to increase the number of the accredited
    representatives to the number of electoral districts. The president
    vetoed the bill, though, and the law was passed in a watered down
    version.
            The amendments that did pass impose an obligation on local
    electoral commissions to provide equal information about all
    candidates.
    
    
    The AMENDMENTS TO THE LAW "ON PENSIONS FOR MILITARY PERSONNEL,
    LOW-RANKING AND HIGH-RANKING OFFICERS OF THE MINISTRY OF INTERNAL
    AFFAIRS," submitted by the president, fill a gap in Belarusian
    pension legislation. Until now, police officers who formerly served
    in Lithuania, Latvia or Estonia were not covered by pension
    legislation.
    The amended law  makes them eligible for Belarusian pensions.
    
    The AMENDMENTS TO THE LAW "ON INTERNAL STATE DEBT," submitted by the
    president, provide the mechanisms for borrowing from legal and
    natural persons on behalf of the cabinet. The cabinet may authorize
    other state bodies to hold such debts.
    
    The AMENDMENTS TO THE LAW "ON THE 1996 BUDGET OF THE REPUBLIC OF
    BELARUS," submitted by the Committee for Economic Reform, provide for
    writing off of debts owed to the state budget by any business or
    enterprise. The wage debts of state-owned companies to their workers
    and the dissatisfaction of the latter forced Parliament to pass the
    present law.
    
    The Supreme Soviet adopted the decree "ON THE HOLDING OF THE NATIONAL
    REFERENDUM ON  NOVEMBER 24, 1996," which would add questions to the
    presidential referendum, The referendum already includes four
    presidential questions: concerning the new  date of the Independence
    Day of the Republic of Belarus: the presidential draft of the new
    Constitution: sale of land plots, and abolition of the death penalty.
    The Supreme Soviet would add the following questions to the
    referendum:
    "1. Do you support the 1994 draft of the Constitution with amendments
        proposed by the communist and agrarian groups in the Parliament
        of the Republic of Belarus?;
    2. Do you agree that the heads of the local executives shall be
       elected directly by the citizens of the correspondent
       administrative areas?;
    3. Do you agree that financing of all branches of power should be
       undertaken publicly and exclusively from the state budget?"
    
    The president proposed the referendum along with a draft of the
    new Constitution (EELM: Belarus -- September 1996, vol. I, no. 5),
    that, not surprisingly, provoked an angry response from the Supreme
    Soviet. In subsequent heated debates, the Supreme Soviet decided to
    add its own questions to the presidential referendum draft and to
    change the date of the referendum.
    
    
    (For more on the preceding paragraph, see EELM: Belarus -- September 1996, vol. I, no. 5.)
    
    The draft of the Constitution proposed by the Supreme Soviet
    abolishes the position of president and provides for a parliamentary
    republic, along the lines of  the 1978 Constitution. In connection
    with this, Parliament adopted the decree ON THE ELECTION OF THE HEAD
    OF THE CENTRAL COMMISSION FOR ELECTIONS AND NATIONAL  REFERENDA and
    appointed Viktor Hanchar, an MP and former deputy prime minister, to
    the post.
    
                - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    
    The East European Legislative Monitor is a free, monthly publication
    of the Constitutional and Legislative Policy Institute.
    
    Note:The October, 1996, issue is the last issue, at least for the
    time being.
    
    East European Legislative Monitor Staff
    
           Editor  Jeff Taylor   e-mail: taylorj@osi.hu
    
           Associate Editor  Dwight Semler
    
           Assistant Editors  Mathew Utterback
                              Paul Benjamin
                              Sybilla Suda
    
    




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