The date upon which a state gains independence is rather like a birthday; meanwhile, Constitution Day is like coming of age. A country receives its major document on this day, like a person receiving a passport. From this moment, the country matures, developing as a fully-fledged state. Its citizens gain clear understanding of their rights, freedoms, obligations and common values. The Chairman of the Constitutional Court, Piotr Miklashevich, shares his views.
How do you feel about March 15th?
Without doubt, March 15th, 1994, is an historic date, being the day on which the Republic of Belarus adopted its sovereign state Constitution. It defined the fate of our country, setting out the principles of how the state and society would be run, in addition to the rights, freedoms and obligations of citizens. Additionally, our basic points of development were outlined.
Of course, this date is symbolic; it is a holiday on which I enjoy sincerely congratulating all our citizens. I hope that they will preserve unity and responsibility in continuing to build our democratic, law-based, social state, which has such solid foundations in the Constitution. It’s vital that every one of us follow it, since law is the basis for all society.
The Constitutional Court’s address to the President and Parliament indicates that last year boasted various significant public-political events. From the perspective of your own position, how do you view them?
The Constitution defines how our country is run, outlining how authorities are divided into legislative, executive and judicial bodies. It also defines the role of the President of the Republic of Belarus. Last year, our presidential elections followed the principles and norms of our Constitution and our elective right; they were open and democratic. Each citizen of our country was able to freely express their will, visiting the polling station to vote for the candidate they thought most worthy. Democratic society relies on this guarantee.
The elections confirmed once more that the Constitution is active. However, I’d like to bring a serious point to your attention. On the one hand, citizens are granted a range of generally recognised freedoms; on the other, we should not forget the repercussions of failing to observe constitutional norms. This was observed on the evening of December 19th and must be assessed accordingly. Article 35 of the Constitution guarantees the right to meet freely but simultaneously states that such meetings must comply with the law. If someone infringes the constitutional demands of the law, they must take legal responsibility for their actions.
We must take care to protect our Constitution, not only recalling its rights and freedoms but fulfilling its obligations, to support constitutional order. With this in mind, the Constitutional Court’s address to the President and Parliament stresses the need for society to form a constitutional culture, with each citizen respecting the laws of the country, its norms and principles. People should follow these laws in their daily activity, strictly and obediently.
The major function of the Constitutional Court is to check whether our laws follow the Constitution. I’m sure you have enough material to assess the quality of the law-making process...
Since 2008, the Constitutional Court has had the power to control all laws adopted by the House of Representatives and approved by the Council of the Republic, before sending them for signing by the President. Last year, 129 laws were debated to ensure they followed the Constitution, showing that Parliament and other state bodies involved in law-making are guided by the principles of the Constitution.
In its 17 years of operation, the Constitutional Court has detected about 50 legislative acts which have failed to comply with the Constitution: most before 2000, when our state legislation was still being formed. Development continues, being ever perfected, with participants’ qualifications rising. Importantly, political stability, concordance and effective interaction between branches of authority have been achieved.
One of today’s major tasks is to focus on executing our adopted laws. Last year, the Constitutional Court formulated over 50 legal positions, drawing the attention of law-makers and law-executors to their obligation to ensure that legislation follows the Constitution. Under debate is a new mechanism for this purpose, to ensure the stable and harmonious development of our state and society.