Meeting to discuss amendments to the Constitution

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The proposed constitutional amendments have aroused keen interest in the public, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko said at a session to review the outcomes of the public discussion of the new Belarus Constitution draft on 18 January.

The head of state noted that the meeting to discuss the proposals and views of the public gathered a broad range of participants. “Members of the Constitutional Commission and the working group are present here. So are experts who fine-tuned and polished the Constitution draft before it was put out for public debate. We agreed to hold such a meeting at the year-end. Let me remind you that a nationwide discussion of the proposed constitutional amendments has been going on in the country for more than three weeks,” the President said.

“I decided to go for a large-scale discussion of the proposed amendments in order to get feedback, an opinion of experts, company executives, ordinary people, including civil servants, labor collectives and organizations. I have been told that the proposed amendments aroused keen interest. The very process of the constitutional reform and the forthcoming referendum are of interest to the public. People from across all walks of life got involved in the dialogue,” the head of state said.

He also noted that the state-run media are running an extensive awareness raising campaign. “Our opponents have also chimed in. They are sticking their oar in. This is exactly what they are doing. I got all their statements analyzed. They are trailing along behind, catching up all theses, all commas and starting to either criticize or refute them. Their logic is incomprehensible. They have already departed from their main slogan - ‘Change, change!’,” the Belarusian leader stated.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said that any changes and transformations should rely on the Constitution, since everything should be in accordance with the law. “This is a natural process of change. We should start in the same way as all civilized and educated people do. The Constitution should serve as the basis for these changes. We do not want to end up in a situation that will be worse than in Kazakhstan, the situation like the one in Ukraine. Therefore, we need to tread cautiously,” the President emphasized.

The head of state also believes that instead of learning from one's own mistakes, one should learn from mistakes and achievements of friends, neighbors and enemies. “I didn’t invent this. We embarked on these changes using the above-mentioned principle,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

In turn, the opposition only criticized the proposed constitutional amendments. “I have recently spoken about peacekeepers. You know what they wished to our peacekeeping contingent? To bring back at least one zinc coffin from there. What kind of opposition is it? These are enemies! They could have at least concealed their true goals,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

As for the discussion of the amendments and additions to the Constitution, Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that many of the participants of the meeting visited labor collectives, organizations, and the regions. “Actually, the draft amendments to the Constitution itself are the result of numerous discussions, meetings, dialogue platforms. At least, no one can criticize me for having an absolute dictatorship in this matter and for not giving people the opportunity to speak up. Everyone who wanted to contribute their views, could do so,” the President said.

“My concept was that the Constitutional Court should be at the heart of the effort to amend the Constitution, because the Constitutional Court has the best experts in this field (these are members of the Constitutional Court, judges and other related specialists). I am not saying this to offend anyone. The Constitutional Court experts were enhanced by our specialists, including parliamentarians, chairs of commissions. These people also boast the highest level of expertise. The same can be said about people working in the executive branch, the Belarus President Administration. These seasoned professionals were at the top tier of the effort,” the head of state said.

“Moreover, we put together a working group comprising some mature professionals who can analyze things and offer their expert opinion. We also set up the Constitutional Commission. It is a diverse group incorporating people from all walks of life, including veterans and the youth. What can we be blamed for? Nothing,” the Belarusian leader stressed.

Later on, the new Constitution draft was presented to the public. The nationwide discussion was designed to make this process absolutely democratic. “We invited people to contribute their views, to criticize, to speak up. We received more than 7,000 suggestions and remarks - from completely ridiculous to meaningful. And this group of specialists ‘digested’ all this, and today we had to make some additions to the Constitution draft. And that’s not all. The final version of the Constitution draft will be submitted by the President to a referendum,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

“This process is demanding and serious. Our political scientists are right to say that no other country of the world has ever done anything like that and is unlikely to ever do it, even our fraternal Russia. Drawing on Russia’s experience we have made this process more inclusive and asked the public about their vision of the new Constitution,” the Belarusian leader added.

Aleksandr Lukashenko spoke about the future of the constitutional process in Belarus: “There are two scenarios: people will either accept the amendments to this Constitution and we will get the revised Constitution, or they will decline these amendments and we will have the current Constitution. This is the answer to the question who needs it and who benefits from it.”

According to the head of state, you can sometimes hear certain people saying that only Lukashenko needs it. “Let’s be honest, I don’t need this process at all. As you can see, I am a busy man. Forgive me for being indelicate, but I sometimes have so many things to do that I can’t even spend an evening at home on a sick leave,” the President said. “I cannot welcome my sons, our boys, more than 200 people, at the airport [this pertains to peacekeepers returning from Kazakhstan], and I cannot instruct someone else to do it on my behalf,” the President said.

“So don’t get stuck on Lukashenko. Lukashenko has done his thing. Now we have to do the main thing – to adopt the Constitution, to amend laws, to bring them into compliance with the Constitution. We will do it, there is no big deal. I want everybody to know that we will do it with the involvement of our parliament, with you, current specialists,” the head of state said. “We are not going to look for any specialists abroad to bring the constitutional process to a logical conclusion. When we finish this process and polish all details, please come, we will set up new government bodies, adopt new rules and regulations.”

At the same time, Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that no Constitution can regulate absolutely all aspects of life. “The Constitution, laws, the way of life, the experience of many generations shape the mentality, the character of the nation. This is the main thing. We are ordinary people, 90% of us do not need the Constitution in our everyday life. People clearly understand what they can and cannot do, what is good and what is bad. This is formed within decades and centuries. And this is the main thing for any state, any country, and any nation,” the President is convinced.

He said that every year and every decade bring something new – small, medium and big strokes, and this is how the vision of a nation is formed. According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, the Constitution of the country must be stable, and it is unnecessary to supersaturate it with details which can be specified in corresponding laws and legal acts.