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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. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - The East European Legislative Monitor is a free, monthly publication of the Constitutional and Legislative Policy Institute. East European Legislative Monitor Staff Editor Jeff Taylor Associate Editor Dwight Semler Assistant Editors Mathew Utterback Paul Benjamin Sybilla Suda - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Subscriptions to the East European Legislative Monitor are free. 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