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Politics of Belarus

Since his election in July 1994 to a 5-year term as Belarus's first President Alexsandr Lukashenko has consolidated power steadily in the executive branch through authoritarian means. He used a nondemocratic November 1996 referendum to amend the 1994 Constitution in order to broaden his powers and illegally extend his term in office. The new constitution has a popularly elected president who serves a 5-year term. The bicameral parliament consists of the 64-seat Council of the Republic and the 110-seat Chamber of Representatives. The president appoints the prime minister, who is the head of government. Administratively, the country is divided into six regions or "voblasts".

In October 2000, parliamentary elections occurred for the first time since the disputed referendum of 1996. According to OSCE/ODIHR, these elections failed to meet international standards for democratic elections. In particular the elections fell far short of meeting the minimum commitments for free, fair, equal, accountable and transparent elections. Following on from the flawed parliamentary elections, and based on the unrecognized 1996 constitution, Lukashenko announced early in 2001 that presidential elections would be held. International monitors noted sweeping human rights violations and nondemocratic practices throughout the election period, including massive vote counting fraud. These irregularities led the OSCE/ODIHR to find that these elections also failed to meet Belarus' OSCE commitments for democratic elections.

Government restrictions on freedom of speech and the press, peaceful assembly, religions and movement all increased in 2001. Despite the constitutional provisions, a 1998 government decree limited citizens right to express their own opinion. Although independent media remain widely available in Minsk, as part of a continuing crackdown on opposition activity, the authorities stepped up its campaign of harassment against the independent media. The authorities continued to restrict severely the right to a free press through near-monopolies on the means of production of newsprint; means of distribution on national level broadcast media, such as television and radio, and by denying accreditation of journalists critical of the regime.

Freedom of assembly is restricted under former Soviet law, which is still valid. It requires an application at least 15 days in advance of the event. The local government must respond positively or negatively at least 5 days prior to the event. Public demonstrations occurred frequently in 2001, but always under government oversight.

The constitution provides for freedom of religion; however, the authorities restrict this right in practice. Although Article 16 of the 1996 amended constitution, which resulted from an illegal referendum, reaffirms the equality of religions and denominations before the law, it also contains restrictive language that stipulated that cooperation between the state and religious organizations "is regulated with regard for their influence on the formation of spiritual, cultural, and country traditions of the Belarusian people."

According to the constitution, citizens are free to travel within the country and to live and work where they wish; however, the authorities restrict these rights in practice. The authorities issue internal passports to all adults, which serve as primary identity documents and are required to travel, obtain permanent housing, and for hotel registration.

The constitution provides for the right of workers--except state security and military personnel--to voluntarily form and join independent unions and to carry out actions in defense of workers'rights, including the right to strike. In practice, however, these rights are limited. The Belarusian Free Trade Union (BFTU) was established in 1991 and registered in 1992. Following the 1995 Minsk metro workers strike, the President suspended its activities. In 1996 BFTU leaders formed a new umbrella organization, the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Union (BCDTU), which encompasses four leading independent trade unions and is reported to have about 15,000 members.

In May 2001, a complaint was lodged with the ILO by several trade union organizations. A trade union campaign was carried out to raise international awareness and put pressure on the Belarus government. On July 27, 2001, they continued to "create problems for him on the international stage." On several occasions, warnings were given to trade unions condiered too political and not sufficiently constructive. Twice, on July 27 and September 27, the bank accounts of the FTUB were frozen by the authorities. FTUB leaders were threatened with prosecution. Investigations were carried out, but with no result. The accounts were then reopened.

Government Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Belarus
conventional short form: Belarus
local long form: Respublika Byelarus'
local short form: none
former: Belorussian (Byelorussian) Soviet Socialist Republic

Data code: BO

Government type: republic

Capital: Minsk

Administrative divisions: 6 voblastsi (singular - voblasts') and one municipality* (harady, singular - horad):

Brestskaya (Brest), Homyel'skaya[?] (Homyel'), Horad Minsk*, Hrodzyenskaya (Hrodna), Mahilyowskaya[?] (Mahilyow), Minskaya, Vitsyebskaya[?] (Vitsyebsk)
note: voblasti have the administrative center name following in parentheses

Independence: 25 August 1991 (Belarusian Supreme Soviet declaration of independence from the Soviet Union)

National holiday: Independence Day, July 3 (1944); note - represents Minsk liberation from German occupation

Constitution: 30 March 1994; revised by national referendum of November 24, 1996 giving the presidency greatly expanded powers and became effective 27 November 1996

Legal system: based on civil law system

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Aleksandr Lukashenko (since 20 July 1994)
head of government: Prime Minister Sergey Ling (acting since 18 November 1996, confirmed 19 February 1997); First Deputy Prime Minister Vasiliy Dolgolev (since 2 December 1998); Deputy Prime Ministers Vladimir ZAMETALIN (since 15 July 1997), Ural LATYPOV (since 30 December 1997), Gennadiy NOVITSKIY (since 11 February 1997), Leonid KOZIK (since 4 February 1997), Aleksandr POPKOV (since 10 November 1998)
cabinet: Council of Ministers
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term; election last held 24 June and 10 July 1994 (next to be held NA; according to the 1994 constitution, the next election should have been held in 1999, however Lukashenko extended his term to 2001 via the November 1996 referendum); prime minister and deputy prime ministers appointed by the president
election results: Aleksandr Lukashenko elected president; percent of vote - Aleksandr Lukashenko 85%, Vyacheslav KEBICH 15%
note: first presidential elections took place in June-July 1994

Legislative branch: bicameral Parliament or Natsionalnoye Sobranie consists of the Council of the Republic or Soviet Respubliki (64 seats; eight appointed by the president and 56 indirectly elected by deputies of local councils for four-year terms) and the Chamber of Representatives or Palata Pretsaviteley (110 seats; note - present members came from the former Supreme Soviet which Lukashenko disbanded in November 1996)
elections: last held May and November-December 1995 (two rounds, each with a run-off; disbanded after the November 1996 referendum; next to be held NA)
election results: after the November 1996 referendum, seats for the Chamber of Representatives were filled by former Supreme Soviet members as follows: PKB 24, Agrarian 14, Party of Peoples Concord 5, LDPB 1, UPNAZ 1, Green World Party 1, Belarusian Social Sports Party 1, Ecological Party 1, Republican Party of Labor and Justice 1, independents 61; 58 of the 64 seats in the Council of the Republic have been appointed/elected

Judicial branch: Supreme Court, judges are appointed by the president; Constitutional Court, half of the judges appointed by the president and half appointed by the Chamber of Representatives

Political parties and leaders: Agrarian Party[?] (Aleksandr Pavlov, acting chairman); Belarusian Communist Party[?] or KPB (Viktor CHIKIN, chairman); Belarusian Green Party or BPZ (Mikalay KARTASH, chairman); Belarusian Labor Party[?] or BPP [Aleksandr BUKHVOSTOV, chairman]; Belarusian Patriotic Movement [?](Belarusian Patriotic Party) or BPR [Anatoliy Barankevich, chairman]; Belarusian Popular Front[?] or BNF [Vintsuk VYACHORKA, chairman]; Belarusian Social-Democrat or SDBP [Nikolay STATKEVICH, chairman]; Belarusian Social-Democratic Party Hramada [Stanislav SHUSHKEVICH, chairman]; Belarusian Social Sports Party or BSSP [Aleksandr ALEKSANDROVICH, chairman]; Belarusian Socialist Party [Vyacheslav KUZNETSOV]; Civic Accord Bloc (United Civic Party) or CAB [Stanislav BOGDANKEVICH, chairman]; Ecological Party or BEP [Liudmila YELIZAROVA, chairperson]; Liberal-Democratic Party or LDPB [Sergei GAYDUKEVICH, chairman]; Party of All-Belarusian Unity and Concord or UPNAZ [Dmitriy BULAKOV, chairman]; Party of Communists Belarusian or PKB [Sergei KALYAKIN, chairman]; Party of Popular Accord or PPA [Leanid SECHKA]; Republican Party of Labor and Justice or RPPS [Anatoliy NETYLKIN, chairman]; Women's Party Nadezhda [Valentina POLEVIKOVA, chairperson]

International organization participation: CCC, CEI, CIS, EAPC, EBRD, ECE, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Inmarsat, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO, ITU, NAM, OPCW, OSCE, PCA, PFP, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTrO (applicant)

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Valery TSEPAKO
chancery: 1619 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20009
telephone: [1] (202) 986-1604
FAX: [1] (202) 986-1805
consulate(s) general: New York

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Daniel V. SPECKHARD
embassy: Starovilenskaya #46-220002, Minsk
mailing address: use embassy street address
telephone: [375] (17) 231-5000
FAX: [375] (17) 234-7853

Flag description: red horizontal band (top) and green horizontal band one-half the width of the red band; a white vertical stripe on the hoist side bears the Belarusian national ornament in red

Reference Much of the material in this article comes from the CIA World Factbook 2000 and the 2003 U.S. Department of State website.

See also : Belarus



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