Meeting to discuss issues related to harmonization of certain laws with updated Constitution
Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko hosted a meeting to discuss issues related to the harmonization of certain laws with the updated Constitution on 13 December.
The President said that during the previous meeting held to discuss the updated Constitution a decision was made to revisit the draft law “On the Belarusian People's Congress”. The President instructed to explain the people the provisions of this legal act, learn their opinion and finalize it before adoption.
“The results of the work done are the main thing we would like to hear today in order to make the decision at this level,” the Belarusian leader said. The President was briefed that the public discussion was quite active. Almost 500 responses were received within ten days. There were a variety of opinions. “I know that many of the proposals that make the draft law better have been taken into account. First of all, we must understand that the congress is an important constitutional representative body, an organ of the supreme power of the people. The fact that the Belarusian People’s Congress will acquire such a status was mentioned at the very first meeting to the delegates who attended it,” the President said.
“The Belarusian People’s Congress is a stabilizer of our society. Its main role is to stabilize society at all stages of its development. If the need arises, it will be on its platform where negotiations will take place,” stressed Aleksandr Lukashenko. Under normal conditions, the congress will continue to work as it should, only with some additional functions.
“We will meet more often, at least once a year. As I said earlier: since it is not a permanent body, we will gather to discuss major issues, make decisions and go back to work in labor collectives,” the Belarusian leader said.
The bill “On the Belarusian People’s Congress” had been put out for a public debate. As a result, about half a thousand comments and remarks were submitted. According to Chairperson of the Standing Commission on Legislation of the House of Representatives Svetlana Lyubetskaya, the feedback was mostly constructive. Two-thirds of all proposals dealt with the clarification of the wording of the bill. About 40 comments contained no specific proposals, only a positive assessment of the bill in general. And only 18 people (which is 3%) spoke against the establishment of the Belarusian People’s Congress.
Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that in fact more than 3% of the public believe that the Belarusian People’s Congress is not necessary. The President noted: “People should understand that things will no longer be peaceful. We already have the experience of 2020. They will not leave us alone. Even if all our people want it, they will not let us live a quiet life. And the question is: what if? What if we face another havoc? 2020 saw an attempt of external forces to arrange a rebellion, to influence our country from abroad. This is the main thing. Well, there were several thousand people inside the country who decided to get in on it. Well, what if an internal confrontation happens? Yes, it will be fueled from outside, but the main reason and the main forces will be inside. We have not had this before, but this is possible, especially now that the generation is changing, and the government, including the President, will be changing through natural causes,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
“If such internal reasons for a clash emerge... Are we going to go against each other head-to-head? This should not happen. And how can we prevent this? We are offering people and the state this mechanism – the Belarusian People’s Congress,” the head of state said.
“To put it simply, we need to bring home to every one of the 10 million that in the event of a conflict political parties will get agitated, various branches of power will bend in different directions, the turmoil will pass on to society, and this might spiral into civil war ... What shall we do then? In this case the Belarusian People’s Congress will step on the scene. And people should know that in such a situation this body will convene and make a decision,” the President said.
Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that people in Belarus have not experienced civil war and civil confrontation. “Therefore, many question the need for the congress. I hope to God that we will not need the congress for this. Yet, all kinds of things can happen. It costs the state almost nothing as the congress will consist of 1,200 people working on the ground [delegates will gather at the Belarusian People’s Congress once a year, and the rest of the time they will work on the ground doing their jobs]. They will convene, put an end to the confrontation. Therefore, people should understand that we are thinking about the future. We hope to God that this confrontation will not take place. But if it does, we will handle it through the Belarusian People’s Congress,” the Belarusian leader stressed.
The President noted that every citizen of Belarus should perceive the Belarusian People’s Congress as their own representative body. “If something happens, the crucial decisions will be taken there. This is what people should understand,” the head of state said.
Svetlana Lyubetskaya spoke about some improvements to the bill. Thus, in Article 3 of the bill, two principles of the work of the Belarusian People’s Congress were supplemented - the rule of law and free discussion and decision-making, which citizens and lawyers insisted on.
In order to strengthen the special status of the Belarusian People’s Congress and clearly define its competencies (people were concerned about this matter) a separate Article 4 was singled out stating that the Belarusian People’s Congress has no right to replace state bodies, perform their functions, or interfere with their activities.
Aleksandr Lukashenko also drew attention to this aspect. “It is very important that the Belarusian People’s Congress should not interfere and that is should do its own work. Although the Belarusian People’s Congress will include people of reputation, it cannot interfere with the work of other bodies, replace them, or perform their functions. The Belarusian People’s Congress, in fact, should remain a political institution, and should not morph into some kind of bureaucratic body,” the head of state said.
The Belarusian leader noted that it is necessary to tell people that they should not rush to the Belarusian People’s Congress asking it to help resolve issues related to construction of houses, fences, roofs ... “This is not its function. It will deal with big issues, major issues facing our country. The Belarusian People’s Congress should not deal with these fences and roofs even on its own initiative. People can take such grievances to local authorities, the government, the President. We need to explain to people that it [the Belarusian People’s Congress] will discuss the country’s development strategy,” the head of state emphasized.
According to Svetlana Lyubetskaya, the public wants the Belarusian People’s Congress to have delegates from all walks of life. Therefore, Article 6 provides that the Belarusian People’s Congress should have delegates representing various population groups.
“We want to draw the attention to the fact that representatives of labor collectives will make up 90% of delegates” the head of state noted.
The MP also said that it turned out during the public debate that not everyone understood how the discussion of the following issues would be initiated. These issues include introduction of amendments and additions to the Constitution, introduction of proposals to call a nationwide referendum, discussion of the legitimacy of elections and abolition of legal acts of state bodies, as well as public holidays. Therefore, the relevant articles of the bill establish that the Presidium of the Belarusian People’s Congress or a group of delegates consisting of at least one third of all delegates would be able to initiate these issues.
“At the same time, there will be a preliminary discussion of a number of important matters by the bodies of the Belarusian People’s Congress. This will ensure their timely and thorough preparation for consideration by the congress. These matters include the legitimacy of elections, the removal of the President from office, the abolition of legal acts, decisions of government agencies. We assume that the preliminary discussion will be held by commissions. And the algorithm will be established by the regulations,” Svetlana Lyubetskaya noted.
At the meeting, the President also commented on the work of political parties in Belarus. According to the head of state, political parties are an important institution for the Belarusian society. The bill on political parties has been discussed before; it was scrutinized at a meeting hosted by the President, and later fine-tuned. “Now I want to hear about the key changes. What has changed? How will we navigate through this?” Aleksandr Lukashenko asked. The President explained that the question of political parties is truly important as it can cause not only debate in society, but also social strife: “I know this from my own experience, and everyone in attendance knows it ... Our society has gone through this. Therefore, we should foresee everything in the law and communicate it to the public so that it does not outrage party members and cause turmoil in our society.”
The bill on political parties should be brought into line with the reality on the ground, the head of state stressed. “It is true that we must follow developments in the neighboring states, outside our country. Yet, we should focus on our own country, our experience. Our actions should be in compliance with the developments in our Belarus, in our society,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted.
“Only those political parties whose activities comply with the basic principles of domestic and foreign policy should be present in the political landscape of the country,” Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized. According to him, representatives of political parties must stick to the strategy that will be developed at the Belarusian People’s Congress, which is the biggest representative body of people’s power. “What is not clear about it and what is wrong here? We have a policy, it has been worked out. Please, enforce it. Political parties have enough freedom of action to suggest ways to implement this policy,” the President said. And this depends on political views of political parties themselves, they can represent a wide spectrum from the left to the right. “I don’t see anything bad in this. However, every political party should be loyal to the country, act in the interests of citizens, our people, Belarusians,” the head of state said.
He is confident that the political system in Belarus will evolve and new patriotic political parties will appear. “At the same time, random people will be out of the picture,” Aleksandr Lukashenko added.
This said, things will not change overnight, it will take time. Yet, as the President emphasized, we need to embark on it now: “Today we will evaluate all the refinements and the degree of readiness of the documents under discussion in order to make a decision whether we can already submit them to the House of Representatives.”