Browse the listing below to find government information for Belarus, including flags, leaders,
and constitution information. Factrover also has complete information on Belarus at its
Belarus Country Page.
Constitution: March 30, 1994; revised by unrecognized national referendum of November 24, 1996 giving presidency greatly expanded powers and became effective November 27, 1996.
Independence: 1991 (from Soviet Union).
Branches: Executive--president (head of state), prime minister (head of government), Council of Ministers (cabinet). Legislative--bicameral: the House of Representatives (110 deputies) and the Council of the Republic (64 deputies). The Council of the Republic is the house of territorial representation. Eight members of the Council are appointed directly by the president of the Republic of Belarus, while the rest are elected by local region councils. The deputies to the House of Representatives are elected directly by the voters. Judicial--Supreme Court; Constitutional Court.
Administrative subdivisions: Six voblasts (regions) and one municipality.
Political parties: Agrarian Party (AP); Belarusian Communist Party (KPB); Belarusian Ecological Green Party; Belarusian Patriotic Movement (BPR); Belarusian Popular Front (BNF); Belarusian Social-Democrat Party (BSDP); Social-Democratic Hramada Party; Belarusian Socialist Party; United Civic Party (UCP); Liberal Democratic Party (LDBP); Party of Communists Belarusian (PKB); Republican Party of Labor and Justice (RPPS); Social Democratic Party of Popular Accord (PPA); Women's Party.
Suffrage: Universal at age 18.
Since his election in July 1994 to a five-year term as the country's first President Alexander Lukashenko has consolidated power steadily in the executive branch through authoritarian means. He used a non-democratic 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 2002. The authorities maintain vigilant control over the press vis-ŕ-vis near-monopolies of the means of production of newsprint and the distribution of national level broadcast media, such as television and radio. Efforts in the past year to further infringe upon press freedoms included the closing of an independent newspaper and continued harassment, beating or denial of accreditation to independent journalists critical of the regime. At the end of 2002 the government called for the re-registration of all media organizations. Additionally, although several Internet service providers have emerged in Belarus, they are all state controlled.
Despite constitutional provisions, a 1998 government decree limited citizens’ rights to express their own opinions. The 1994 and 1996 Constitutions both provide for freedom of peaceful assembly; however, the regime severely restricts this right in practice. 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. Following many unsanctioned demonstrations, police and other security officials beat, detained, and attempted to coerce confessions from some demonstration participants.
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."
On October 22, the Parliament approved a new law on religion, despite protests from international and domestic human rights organizations as well as Orthodox religious groups not affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church. The law contains a number of very restrictive elements.
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. Late in 2001, the regime attempted to further restrict the unions by refusing to turn over dues paid by members. Once it became clear that the unions and the BFTU were adjusting to this change, the Government in June of 2002 embarked on a takeover of the BFTU and several of its branch unions. The BFTU subsequently became an arm of the government and the election of Leonik Kozik to the position of Chairman of the BFTU has been challenged by the International Labor Organization (ILO).