Lawmakers pass on baton
The National Assembly of the fourth calling has completed its work, with members of the House of Representatives and the Council of the Republic gathering for a final meeting in the Oval Hall of the House of Government. President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko was also in attendance
By Kirill Dovlatov
What has Parliament achieved over the past four years? Mr. Lukashenko noted in his speech that these years have been trying for the whole country, largely due to the world crisis. External and internal enemies tried to shatter the stability, peace and tranquillity of society but together we’ve managed to cope with many challenges and continue the ongoing development of the economy. Mr. Lukashenko is convinced that the National Assembly can take some credit for this.
He made a number of judgments, first of all noting, “The scope of Parliament’s power is defined by the Constitution of the country, adopted at the nationwide referendum. Belarusian people made a principal choice in favour of strong government and time has confirmed the correctness of this choice. Personal ambitions are irrelevant. The whole history of humanity — including that of Western countries — shows that young nations’ construction is possible only with strong, centralised power.”
Mr. Lukashenko’s views are confirmed by the examples of the state formation of the UK, France and Germany. He also recalled our recent past, saying, “Belarus still remembers its own experience of the early 1990s, which were years of noisy parliamentary farce. Supreme Council sessions were disorderly and lively but was that endless talk amusing to our people, who, for months, did not receive wages or pensions, froze in their houses and were uncertain for the future. The Government’s task is not to entertain! It must protect people, giving them opportunities to earn a living. Action is more important than words!”
The President outlined an important new landmark, noting, “The current model of Belarusian statehood has not yet exhausted its possibilities. It has helped us create the first independent Belarusian state. The next colossal historical task is to modernise the country, allowing us to break into the elite club of highly developed nations.”
Short term, Mr. Lukashenko does not exclude some change within the political system, asserting, “I’m absolutely sure that, historically, the role of Parliament will be strengthened. I’m a supporter of this and would like the current Parliament of the fifth calling to achieve some modernisation of our political system. This will depend not only on the domestic environment but, foremost, on the foreign political system in which we exist. Under tough pressure from outside, when the independence of the country is at stake, we’ll mass around some personality like other Slavic people would do, in order to protect ourselves, defend our piece of land, preserve the country for our children, and keep existing as a state, as a nation. Therefore, we need to assert ourselves as an independent state and nation. We’ll keep striving until others accept us as independent Belarusians. At present, none wants to accept this.”
The President disagrees that the Belarusian Parliament has no power to its voice, saying it’s a superficial judgment. Meetings in the Oval Hall are always calm but working groups discussing draft bills often enjoy heated debate, although the public rarely hear of this, since the result is all.
The system of parliamentary elections is also under focus. We currently use the majority system but mixed legislature is being discussed, including relating to party lists. The President is not against such an approach, but believes that such a transformation is possible only where authoritative parties exist. He emphasises, “Ask yourself, how many and which parties does our country have? How do they differ from one another? Who will answer? They will name the Communist Party and BPF [Belarusian Popular Front] but that’s all. If we had the Communist Party, the Belarusian Popular Front and, probably, a centrist party (there were attempts to set up it), there would be three parties and people would understand what’s is meant.”
Such a system has been absent in recent years, with little authoritative standing for parties in total. Accordingly, it’s premature to introduce the formation of the Parliament using party lists. The parties need to develop more, evolving gradually. Mr. Lukashenko gives the example of Belaya Rus, noting, “I often hear that Belaya Rus is ready to become a party. If it is ready, then it should go ahead. I would not advise them to hurry; they could really become a centrist force, like the Socialist Party in France, or the social democratic party.”
His conclusion, based on the current situation, is, “Time is required for parties to develop. They should be associated with certain programmes and policies. We’d then be able to form Parliament using party lists. It would be unwise to hurry the situation now, since time and people should guide the process. The next Parliamentary elections are to be held in four years’ time, which gives plenty of scope for consideration of the electoral system. To my mind, all our social forces should take part, everyone who wants to — including opponents of the current power.”
Mr. Lukashenko emphasised the importance of hard work and coherence of action between the two chambers. Deputies and members of the Council of the Republic should talk to people, so they can reflect their opinions, to ensure correct representation. Lawmaking cannot lag behind the times and, most importantly, should ensure the implementation of the tasks defined by the Social and Economic Development Programme for 2011-2015.