Belarusian Statehood. The Constitution of the Republic of Belarus
The Constitution of the Republic of Belarus: for people and for the sake of country’s future
Statehood is the most important value and testifies to the nation’s ability to develop independently — the President of Belarus is convinced of this, and this point of view has found a warm resonance in the hearts of Belarusians. Belarusian statehood has its own history and foundations. As well as unique and unshakable symbols, institutions and traditions. The Belarusian Statehood project of The MT tells about the main ones.
Belarus celebrates Constitution Day on March 15th. The Basic Law of our country embodies the historical experience of the formation of the Belarusian statehood. The Constitution is based on the inalienable sovereign right of the Belarusian people to independently determine their own destiny and be a full-fledged subject of the world community.
The President of the Republic of Belarus,
Aleksandr Lukashenko, “We have not only strengthened, but rather cemented our principles: sovereignty, preservation of historical memory, patriotism, protection of the traditional family as a union of a woman and a man, and much more. It is true that these ideas do not fit into current legal trends of the global liberal ideology. Yet, this is our path, our civilisational and moral choice… We’ve created and adopted a unique legal document. It combines traditions and innovations, rule of the people, and the unity of government. It can be called a constitution of the future without false modesty.” During the solemn ceremony to sign the decision of the national constitutional referendum held on March 4th, 2022
Stages of constitutional construction
• In the history of modern times, Belarus had several constitutions: 1918 (temporary), 1919, 1927, 1937, 1978, 1994. The Belarusian constitutions of the Soviet era of 1919, 1927, 1937, 1978 established a system of state bodies, secured the basic rights of the individual, allowed the preservation of the ethno-cultural identity of the Belarusians, and generally paved the way for the self-determination of the Belarusian people in an independent state.
• The current Constitution was adopted on March 15th, 1994. For the first time in the history of Belarusian statehood, it consolidated the status of the republic as a unitary democratic social legal state, established the principles of a democratic system, the priority of human rights and freedoms. For the first time, the Constitution introduced the position of the President of the Republic of Belarus. Then, at the turning point in the development of the country, the Belarusian society, more than ever, needed a strong national leader capable of consolidating citizens and ensuring the achievement of strategic goals in the socio-economic and political spheres. On July 10th, 1994, People’s Deputy Aleksandr Lukashenko was elected President.
• The majority of citizens voted for giving the Russian language equal status with Belarusian and supported the proposal to establish the new National Flag and the National Coat of Arms of the country at the referendum on May 14th, 1995. On November 24th, 1996, a new version of the Constitution was adopted at a nationwide referendum (the powers of the authorities were redistributed, a bicameral Parliament was created). In addition, Belarusians opposed the abolition of the death penalty. The next referendum, at which the question of amending the Constitution was submitted, was held on October 17th, 2004.
• The development of Belarus and the emergence of new threats in the world required the improvement of legislation: on February 27th, 2022, the current version of the Basic Law was adopted by popular vote. An important aspect is that the Basic Law has been supplemented with a new chapter dedicated to the Belarusian People’s Congress. The main role of the Belarusian People’s Congress is to stabilise society at all stages of its development, and its decisions are binding on all bodies.
• The constitution (from Latin constitutio — establishment, arrangement) is a legal document that determines the structure of the state, the rights, freedoms and obligations of citizens and has the highest legal force. According to the theory of the social contract, the Constitution establishes an agreement between society (citizens) and the state on the most important issues for society.
• The 1994 Constitution of Belarus has been written for four years, since 1990. During this period, the Declaration of State Sovereignty of the BSSR possessed the power of constitutional law, which secured the sovereignty of power, territory and independence of the country. In drawing up the Basic Law of the country in 1994, the experience of constitutional construction in Austria, the USA, France, Germany, Sweden and other countries was used. Of course, taking into account the peculiarities of the development of the Belarusian society and its historical traditions.
• Since 2004, every year from March 10th to March 15th, events of the All-Belarusian patriotic campaign called ‘We are citizens of Belarus!’ are held in all regions of the country on the initiative of the Belarusian Republican Youth Union (BRSM). During the action, representatives of the legislative and executive authorities, veterans of war and labour hand over passports of citizens of the Republic of Belarus in a solemn atmosphere for 14-year-old boys and girls — the best representatives of gifted youth, excellent students, participants of scientific and practical conferences, winners and prize-winners of republican competitions, festivals and school subject contests.
Hierarchy of values
The most important constitutional norm is the provision of Article 2, which defines the hierarchy of values in the country. According to this article, a person, his rights, freedoms and guarantees for their implementation are the highest value and goal of society and the state.
Among the basic principles that permeate the norms of the Constitution are:
• the rule of law;
• guarantee and observance of human and civil rights;
• democratic procedure for the formation of government bodies.
The Constitution of the Republic of Belarus became not only a reflection of political and socio-economic changes, but also a document that determined the vector of development of national statehood and improvement of democratic institutions for decades to come.
• Article 4 stipulates that democracy in the Republic of Belarus is carried out on the basis of the ideology of the Belarusian state, as well as the diversity of political institutions and opinions. The ideology of political parties, religious or other public associations and social groups cannot be established as mandatory for citizens.
• According to Article 18, the Republic of Belarus in its foreign policy proceeds from the principles of equality of states, non-use of force or threat of force, inviolability of borders, peaceful settlement of disputes, non-interference in internal affairs and other generally recognised principles and norms of international law. The Republic of Belarus excludes military aggression from its territory against other states.
Photo by Aleksandr Kulevsky
• Article 32 states that marriage as the union of a woman and a man, family, motherhood, fatherhood and childhood are under the protection of the state. Parents or persons replacing them have the right and obligation to raise children, take care of their health, development and education, instill culture and respect for the laws, historical and national traditions of Belarus. A child should not be subjected to cruel treatment or humiliation, involved in work that may harm his or her physical, mental or moral development. At the same time, children are obliged to take care of their parents, as well as of persons replacing them.
• Article 54 obliges everyone to protect the historical, cultural, spiritual heritage and other national values. Preservation of the historical memory of the heroic past of the Belarusian people and patriotism is the duty of every citizen of the Republic of Belarus.
• Article 70 states that the costs of preparing and holding elections in Belarus are covered by the state. In cases stipulated by law, funds of political parties, other organisations and citizens may also be used for this purpose. At the same time, it is prohibited to finance expenses for the preparation and holding of elections in Belarus by foreign states and organisations, as well as foreign citizens.
• Article 81 determines that the President is elected for a period of five years directly by the people of the Republic of Belarus on the basis of universal, free, equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot. The same person may be President for no more than two terms. Candidates for the post of President are nominated by citizens of Belarus with at least 100,000 signatures of voters.