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    EAST EUROPEAN LEGISLATIVE MONITOR
    
    BELARUS -- SEPTEMBER 1996, vol. I, no. 5
    
    BILLS
    Bankruptcy
    Immigration
    Central Commission for Elections and National Referenda
    Amendment to the Law On Military Forces
    
    LAWS
    No new laws, as the Supreme Soviet was in recess
    
    RULES AND PROCEDURES
    Committees in the Supreme Soviet
    Schedule for Parliamentary by-elections
    
    POLITICAL PARTIES
    President calls for national referendum on and amendment to the
         constitution, and resists a parliamentary by-election
    All major political parties join efforts in anti-presidential
         campaign and hold a roundtable on impeaching the president
         President calls for election of "All-Belarusian National
         Congress"
    
    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 (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
    
    In September, the bill ON BANKRUPTCY is to be considered again by the
    Supreme Soviet. This bill was drafted and submitted by the Supreme
    Commercial Court and the Standing Committee for Economic Policy and
    Reforms in July.
    
    (For more on the preceding paragraph, see EELM: Belarus -- July 1996, vol. I, no. 4.)
    In the meantime, the procedure for bankruptcy is governed by the 1991
    Soviet Union law "On Economic Insolvency and Bankruptcy."  The bill
    would maintain several useful provisions of the outdated law, but
    works from a fundamentally different basis. Article 1 states that
    "bankruptcy is defined as a company's permanent financial insolvency
    or inability to pay its debts, as established by the Commercial
    Court." Under Art. 2, "the purpose of the bankruptcy procedure is to
    regulate relations between the insolvent company and its creditors,
    and satisfy creditors' demands during the subsequent winding-up of
    the bankrupt company."
    
    The bill also lays out the grounds and procedures for bankruptcy of
    legal persons, as well as of natural persons and entrepreneurs.
    
    The bill ON IMMIGRATION was drafted and proposed by the Standing
    Committee for International Affairs. It would allow the creation of a
    legislative basis for the regulation of relations with foreigners on
    the territory of Belarus.  The bill follows earlier laws, such as the
    law "On the Legal Status of Foreign Citizens and Expatriates in
    Belarus" and the law "On Refugees." It provides regulations
    concerning the entry of foreigners into Belarus, the procedure for
    entry clearance, and the procedure for deportation. The cornerstone
    of the bill, however, is the regulation of the various forms of
    immigration and naturalization. Article 59 is intended to combat
    illegal immigration and defines the violation of immigration law as
    follows:
    - assistance in the illegal entry of foreigners into Belarus, or
      illegal transfer of foreigners into Belarus;
    - provision of shelter for foreigners illegally present in Belarus;
    - transfer of foreigners for the purpose of prostitution or any other
      immoral purpose;
    - assistance or participation in the illegal transit of foreigners
      through the territory of Belarus;
    - entrance of foreigners into Belarus in violation of immigration
      laws;
    - illegal employment of foreigners or assistance in such employment.
    
    A bill ON THE CENTRAL COMMISSION OF THE REPUBLIC OF BELARUS FOR
    ELECTION AND NATIONAL REFERENDA was submitted by the president. The
    intention of the bill is to define the purpose, competence,
    organization, and activities of the commission. Under Art. 4, the
    commission will be formed by the president and parliament equally:
    "Six members of the Central Commission shall be elected by the
    Supreme Soviet and six members shall be appointed by the president of
    Belarus." Members of the Central Commission can be recalled by the
    president.  Article 5 gives the president the right to propose the
    candidature for chief of the Central Commission.
    
    The parliamentary Committee on National Security and Defense prepared
    and submitted AMENDMENTS TO THE LAW "ON MILITARY FORCES IN THE
    REPUBLIC OF BELARUS (1992)." Because of the adoption of the
    Constitution in 1994 and the elaboration of a new "Concept  for the
    Reformation of the Armed Forces," an amendment to the law appeared
    necessary. Art. 4 provides that the president is the commander in
    chief of the armed forces of Belarus. Under Art. 5, "The positions of
    minister of defense of the Republic of Belarus, deputy ministers and
    other officials in the armed forces can be held by civil servants."
    
    
    LAWS
    
    There are no new laws, as the Supreme Soviet was in recess.
    
    
    RULES AND PROCEDURES
    
    Parliament approved the schedule for the forthcoming parliamentary
    by-election campaign. Under this plan, the national broadcasting
    company must define the time limit for candidates' addresses to
    voters on local radio. The registration of electoral groups will
    continue until September 20 and the results of such registration must
    be submitted for publication on, or before, September 24. The
    nomination of candidates will start on September 15 and end on
    October 14,  40 days before the election. The by-election per se was
    scheduled for November 24.
    
    The bill ON COMMITTEES IN THE SUPREME SOVIET OF THE REPUBLIC OF
    BELARUS was prepared and submitted by the Parliamentary Committee for
    Statehood and Local Self-Government. The bill defines the functions,
    competence, and organization of standing committees in Parliament, as
    well as providing for the creation of investigative, audit, and other
    ad-hoc parliamentary committees. According to Art. 4, "the Supreme
    Soviet establishes standing committees composed of members of
    Parliament. If necessary, the Supreme Soviet can create ad-hoc
    committees. A standing committee is a body of the Supreme Soviet,
    established for the purpose of preliminary consideration and
    preparation of issues within the competence of the Supreme Soviet,
    and of assistance for implementation and control of adopted laws."
    Article 6 grants the right of legislative initiative to standing
    committees.
    
    
    POLITICAL PARTIES
    
    Despite the parliamentary recess, August was politically heated.
    Angered by resistance from the opposition, the president prepared a
    political attack on the Supreme Soviet and the Constitutional Court.
    Accusing them of creating increased tension in society and resisting
    reforms, the president endeavored to amend the present Constitution
    in order to expand his powers and reduce the power of the legislative
    and judicial branches. He proposed to include in a national
    referendum, to be held on November 7, the following questions:
    
    1. Whether to replace the Independence Day holiday of July 27 with
    the Day of Liberation of the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic
    from the Nazis in 1944. This question is highly ideological--
    Independence Day is the anniversary of the day when Belarus declared
    its separation from Russia in 1990. Taking into consideration that
    only about 20-25% of the public support the independence of Belarus
    (according to recent polls), the president intends to end this
    national holiday. His opinion is that the separation of Belarus from
    Russia is more of a tragedy than cause for a holiday.
    
    2. The second question is the cornerstone of this referendum: "Do you
    want to adopt the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus of 1994
    with the amendment proposed by the president of Belarus?" According
    to this amendment, the present Supreme Soviet will be replaced by a
    two-chamber Parliament, with the upper chamber partially formed by
    the president. The president would also have the right to dissolve
    Parliament. The Constitutional Court would be formed partially by the
    president and would have limited jurisdiction.
    
    3. "Do you support the sale of land in Belarus without any
    restrictions and limitations?"
    
    4. "Do you support the abolition of the death penalty in Belarus?"
    
    President Lukashenka refused to include the question on NATO
    enlargement in the referendum, despite his earlier promise to do so.
    The results of the first and second questions will have legal force,
    and will have to be implemented. The results of the third and fourth
    questions, however, do not constitute a mandate. The significance of
    the referendum is that a positive outcome for the president will
    result in the dissolution of the present Supreme Soviet and the
    Constitutional Court. The president intends to hold the referendum on
    November 7, the date of the Communist Revolution in Russia in 1917, a
    day which is still celebrated by many in Belarus. Needless to say,
    the Supreme Soviet will resist the presidential proposal. Moreover,
    some members of Parliament intend to include the issue of impeachment
    procedures against the president as one of the questions in the
    referendum. The majority of political parties are cooperating in
    their efforts to prevent the president's initiative.
    
    First, the seven major political parties made a declaration of their
    position, then a roundtable was held, where representatives of the 15
    major political parties (from the right-wing Belarusian Popular Front
    to the left-wing Belarusian Communist Party) took part. The
    president, however, refused to participate in the roundtable. "I do
    not belong to any political party and do not intend to negotiate with
    any of them," he said. Moreover, he called for the election of the
    so-called All-Belarusian National Congress (presidential decree No.
    341 of August 29, 1996). Many commentators are afraid that the
    president intends to replace the existing Parliament with a
    non-constitutional body and give it legislative power.
    
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    The East European Legislative Monitor is a free, monthly publication
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           Editor  Jeff Taylor
    
           Associate Editor  Dwight Semler
    
           Assistant Editors  Mathew Utterback
                              Paul Benjamin
                              Sybilla Suda
    
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    Original content and overall form of A Belarus Miscellany ©1996-2004 by Peter Kasaty : All Rights Reserved. Last Updated:  1997/08/08
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