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08 November 2022, 13:28

Lukashenko comments on ways to tune up government structure following constitutional amendments

The Constitution has undergone certain changes and embraced a number of new things. For example, it formalized the constitutional status of the Belarusian People's Congress. “There is no need to complicate or simplify it. We are introducing a new structure to run the state and our society. It must be carefully integrated into the existing system,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

On the inadmissibility of breaking the system

The president of Belarus noted that the new Constitution seeks to improve the existing system without breaking it. “No way. No demolition. There should be no dismantling. Everything should be built on what we already have. An abrupt dismantling equals to almost revolutionary transformations. We saw what this led to in the mid-1990s when the country was broken. Therefore, everything should be based on the experience that we have,” the head of state said.

This also applies to the Belarusian People's Congress, adjustments to the provisions on the work and functions of the president, parliament, and other authorities, including the Council of Ministers.

Respect for the law and social stability

“You need to understand that the Constitution is the foundation of our life. We need to convince all our people to live by the law. I want you to understand that it's not about me telling people to live in conformity with the law. It was not my idea. There is a lot of talk about it. I emphasize this because our people are often guided by certain individuals, first of all, the president, parliament, MPs, the Council of Ministers, and so on. They are fine with any rules they pass,” the Belarusian leader noted.

In no country do citizens have extensive or comprehensive knowledge of the Constitution and laws, he noted. "They don't have to. Laws create a certain framework, behavioral patterns in a particular country, including in Belarus. People understand, based on this framework, what they can do and what they cannot, what will be a violation of the law, and what will not," Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

In this regard, he stressed the importance of living by the law, of raising awareness of the country's citizens about it. "We need to introduce our people to the depths of the legislative matrix, the volume of legislation that exists in our country. Legal knowledge should be the basis. This is when there will be stability in society. Because leaders, government and MPs come and go. The Constitution creates a more or less stable country, a society. People should know at least the main provisions of the Constitution," the head of state said.

About the Belarusian People's Congress, its essence

Aleksandr Lukashenko recalled that the relevant bill had already been discussed with his participation and has been submitted to public debate. The head of state is closely monitoring this process, and will again take part in the discussion of the document.

Observing the course of the public discussion, the head of state concluded that people sometimes do not quite understand the essence of the Belarusian People's Congress, for example, how labor collectives will be represented there and the procedure for nominating delegates.

Aleksandr Lukashenko explained in detail what is at stake. "The motivation is very simple. All those who will participate in the work of the Belarusian People's Congress are elected by the people in one way or another," he said.

Among them are MPs, senators, members of the government, who, although appointed by the president, but still are people's representatives. "Well, in general, let's be honest: if there are no professionals (governors, government members, the president) in the Belarusian People's Congress, then it will turn into a talking shop. They should take part, discuss bills. All decisions will be taken by vote. Mot only MPs will vote. These will also be representatives of our civil society: trade unions, and veterans, women's and youth organizations. Isn't that the people? It is. Women account for more than half of our population. They, through their organization, will nominate and send delegates there. At the same time these women represent a labor collective," Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

In this regard, Chairwoman of the Council of the Republic Natalya Kochanova clarified that labor collectives retain the right to nominate candidates for MPs. They, in turn, will become members of the Belarusian People's Congress if elected.

A similar approach applies to party representatives. "Parties will participate and nominate their candidates for MPs," the president said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko assured that the Belarusian People's Congress will include representatives of the working class, agriculture, and also other sectors - the entire cross-section of society. “I guarantee that there will be workers, farmers, teachers, doctors, civil servants, and the military there. That is for sure. I would like to emphasize the main thing: people should understand that the Congress must include proactive and, most importantly, professional people. We want the Belarusian People's Congress to be a stabilizer for our society, so that nobody could lead the country to the repetition of 2020. It will be a strong stabilizer. As I said, we should discuss the main problems of our society at the Congress, not on the street,” he said.

“People need to be explained that it is not just a place to come to spend your term and leave. I reiterate: the Congress must include professional and proactive people. If there are three or four proactive representatives from workers and farmers, they will always bring forward the point of view of these people. The Congress will comprise 1,200 people. We cannot send everyone there. The Congress will include representatives of different sectors – it will be a small representation of our people,” the Belarusian leader stressed.

Aleksandr Lukashenko believes it has been the right decision to submit the draft law on the Belarusian People's Congress to public debate. “It is a new structure, a new authority. People should know what they are created for,” he said.

On the inadmissibility to introduce innovations to accommodate certain individuals

The president stressed that when discussing certain innovations, as in this case with the government, it is inadmissible to introduce any innovations just to please someone. “Innovations cannot be introduced to accommodate someone. Neither Golovchenko with the members of the government and the head of the Office of the Government, nor me as President, nor the leaders of the houses of parliament. We are here today, and maybe we will be here tomorrow. But we will definitely be gone the day after tomorrow. We need to create the basis, stability,” stressed Aleksandr Lukashenko.

The head of state emphasized that all this is done for future generations, for children. “In no case can we introduce anything new just to please ourselves: “Where will I be tomorrow, where will Golovchenko, Andreichenko or Kochanova, Sergeyenko be? We need to shape legislation for the future, to make the system stable. This is the key to our future. We will leave our present jobs one day and will watch how the country will develop further,” the president said.

The head of state also stressed that the problems that need to be solved today should not be left to children to address. “Problems should be solved as they come in, and should be solved in time by those who have to solve these problems today. Children will have a lot of problems of their own to address,” said the president.

”On government's proactive approach, prices

“In recent years our government has gained a wealth of experience in overcoming crisis situations, like the pandemic and the current challenges. It will not be an overstatement to say that our government members, ministers can work in any government in any country. And they will lead the way, because they have taken their lumps so much that now they can handle anything. They have gained a great deal of experience,” the head of state said.

Nevertheless, Aleksandr Lukashenko wants the Council of Ministers to be more proactive and independent. “Even courageous in making decisions,” he said.

In this regard, the head of state again raised the issue of pricing, which he also mentioned as he talked to journalists the day before. “I want to be understood in the right way. It rarely happens that the government, when fulfilling the instructions of the president, does much better than expected. If we take price regulation as an example, we will see that prices dropped by 30-40% and maybe more for some groups of goods,” the president said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko cited the example of the Keramin company that reduced prices by about 30% for certain types of ceramic tiles: "Now there are queues. People hurry up to grab this product. As an economist I understand that they will make more money because they will sell more. Well, was it worth it to keep prices sky-high and rant and rave over it publicly. So it's not just Keramin with its ceramic tile. There are other products as well. This suggests that the government has gone further, and some have been forced to lower prices, as people say, to backtrack."

"I didn't expect that. But I support the government and the specialists who acted in a such a manner. This is a good demonstration to the people and specialists, economists, that prices were overinflated by about 30%. But I've always insisted on 25-30%. Let's tighten our belts by 25-30% and let people breathe. Then the situation will be completely different. This will be justice," the Belarusian leader said.

"Therefore, if someone made an assumption that I did not insist on price downward revision and that they may skip it, they are wrong. If we back down, this will be a catastrophe, because it will violate the system that has been set by the resolution of the government. We can't allow it to happen. It was a good step by the government in the right direction. I absolutely support them. We have sorted things out and are now fine-tuning the price setting mechanism in retail and industries. We can safely enter the new year with the inflation target of about 8%, not 19%, as we had this year," Aleksandr Lukashenko summed up.

Speaking about the bills amending the laws “On the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus” and “On normative legal acts” the head of state said that bringing the legislation in accordance with the updated Constitution is a very important topic for the country. “There are a lot of issues, they are not simple, they require the closest attention,” he said. The draft laws on the Belarusian People's Congress and on changes to the Electoral Code were discussed at the presidential level not long ago. The amendments to the law on the Council of Ministers and the law on normative legal acts are on the agenda of today's meeting.

Describing the document concerning the activity of the Council of Ministers, Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed: “Over the past years, our government has gained tremendous experience: overcoming crisis situations and pandemics, managing the economy in these conditions.”

“These achievements, a successfully-developed practice should be definitely enshrined in the law. I also demand more initiative and independence of the Council of Ministers, even boldness in decision-making,” the president said.

The Belarusian leader is convinced that appropriate mechanisms should be laid down in the draft law to make everything work well. “This is the area of responsibility for the Council of Ministers. While working on a draft law, one should remember that the structure of the government should not remain frozen as well. I already talked about that in August,” he stressed.

The second document - the bill on normative legal acts – is the basis for a single legal space of the country. “It should help constitutional norms to develop, taking into account the current situation,” said the head of state.

In his words, the current law specifies in detail who has the right to adopt these or those documents as well as their legal effect. “With a new body - the Belarusian People's Congress – included in the Constitution we have to define its place in the system of legal acts. The importance of these documents is comparable to that of the decisions of the Congress of the Communist Party in its time. The law should contain answers to all the questions about lawmaking: starting from preparation procedures and ending with a clear explanation of the rules. My demand is that everything must be spelled out in simple and clear language!” the president said.

System of checks and balances

When it was said that the prime minister's function to perform the duties of the president in certain cases had been excluded from the prime minister's powers (this function has been assigned to the chairperson of the Council of the Republic), the president considered it necessary to specify that it was his proposal to amend the Constitution so that in case the current president left power, his duties would be performed by the chairperson of the Council of the Republic and not by the prime minister as it was before. After all, the prime minister would have the leverage to manage financial instruments, the parliament, the judiciary, and the executive branch in such a case. “That is probably something which is not right to do. We need a system of checks and balances. There should be a system of checks and balances. Imagine, the prime minister holds a presidential election in the event of the president's resignation. The budget, economy, finances, everything get in the same hands. Right? Right. The result is almost predetermined in any democracy. For example, the midterm elections are on in the United States, the bastion of democracy, today. You can see how they are worried about vote rigging,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.

“Therefore, it was decided that in such a situation, the chairperson of the Council of the Republic would perform these duties. The prime minister will deal with economic issues,” the head of state explained. Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that this decision did not take into account the individuals who hold certain positions today. It was important to maintain a balanced system. “It is an absolutely democratic step. Individuals have nothing to do with it. The fact that the chairperson of the Council of the Republic organizes the elections is more democratic. If it is fair, especially with the election of the president, then people will understand it. Because that (and you see it) is what all protests, sanctions, unrest and so on are based on. I proceed from this point,” said the Belarusian leader.

Belarusian People's Congress decisions in the hierarchy of normative acts

The innovations enshrined in the bills and discussed at the meeting included the norms that regulate the interaction between the Council of Ministers and the Belarusian People's Congress.

“It is very important. We are getting a new body in the structure [of the state], and it has to be built into this system," he said. Figuratively, Aleksandr Lukashenko compared the process to the way a new person joins the ranks and, one way or another, he or she shoulders those standing close. “We have to make the Belarusian People's Congress fit into this system smoothly,” he said.

Chief of the Office of the Council of Ministers Konstantin Burak said that the significance of the legal validity of the decisions of the Belarusian People's Congress is spelled out in every document where it is necessary. For example, the prime minister is obliged to inform the Belarusian People's Congress about the implementation of social and economic development programs on an annual basis.

The president reiterated the key role of the Congress and the binding nature of its decisions. “The Belarusian People's Congress, let us say, makes one or two decisions. They are subject to execution by everyone. God forbid a war ... The Belarusian People's Congress makes the corresponding decision, and everyone are ready to fulfill it. This is the essence of the new body. They [the decisions of the Belarusian People's Congress] should be unique. They must be made on very few issues. They should not interfere in the competence of the president or other government bodies in any case,” stressed the Belarusian leader.

In turn, other government bodies, in case of the Belarusian People's Congress decisions, must, figuratively speaking, line up one after another and act, the president demanded. “This is mandatory. I am worried exactly about making everything perform according to the law,” he added.

Deputy Head of the Belarus President Administration Olga Chupris said that the draft law on normative legal acts enshrines this meaning regarding the Belarusian People's Congress decisions. In the hierarchy of documents they follow the Constitution, laws on amendments and additions to the Constitution, and decisions of national referendums. She stressed that any decision of any body, except for judicial decisions, can be overturned by the decisions of the Belarusian People's Congress.

Importance of the current moment to sort everything out

Aleksandr Lukashenko explained why he pays such close attention to the formation of the legal framework in the development of the updated Constitution. According to him, it is necessary to document the process of improving the country's governance, while maintaining stability and preventing imbalances. “We, who are sitting here right now, have to get this all straightened out. New people will come into the system we have to create. This is not a joke. This means the management of society, the state, social and economic processes and also the country's sovereignty and independence. This is not a joke. Only someone who does not think seriously about it takes it very easy. Here, the main task of the incumbent president, i.e. me, is to get it all sorted out. That is why I pay so much attention to these legal acts related to the Constitution,” said the president.

The president cited the example of Russia's experience in amending the Constitution, noting that President Vladimir Putin was actively involved in the stage of discussion of the changes, and then the relevant authorities worked. “They have their own system. They have more experience and more specialists. We have to pay more attention to the process here. That is why we are considering it at this level,” Aleksandr Lukashenko explained.

“My task is to leave a normal system of society and government management for the new generation. That is the point. How much time does the current president and all of us need for that? We will spend as much time on it as is needed,” said the Belarusian leader.

The meeting participants also discussed some provisions of the draft laws, including the powers of the Council of Ministers to ensure and control the implementation of the decisions of the Belarusian National Congress, the renewal of the structure of the government, the system of state governing bodies and organizations subordinated to the government, the expansion of the Council of Ministers Presidium to include the Justice Minister, updating the tasks, functions and status of the Office of the Council of Ministers.

It was decided to revisit the issue of legal formulations concerning the unique status of the decisions of the Belarusian People's Congress in order to give them their rightful place in the hierarchy of the normative legal acts of the country in accordance with the requirements and tasks which the head of state voiced at the meeting.

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