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A Provision In New Belarusian Constitution Likely To Be Fateful For Russia – OpEd

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Writing on the centenary of the formation of the USSR, Vladislav Inozemtsev says that while Russia is weeping over the past, Belarus is “restoring the Soviet political system,” a development that matters because it has often been the case that what Alyaksandr Lukashenka does first, Vladimir Putin does soon thereafter.

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Most commentators on the proposed Belarusian constitution are focusing on the fact that it will allow Lukashenka to remain in office for the rest of his life, the Russian analyst says, just as they focused on the 2020 constitutional amendments that allow Putin to do the same only to discover that other changes matter more in both cases.

Far more interesting that Lukashenka’s tenure, Inozemtsev says, is the fact that the new Belarusian constitution specifies that the selection of members of the country’s legislature will be chosen on the basis of a law to be adopted later, a practically unique case in constitutional regulation (newizv.ru/comment/vladislav-inozemtsev/30-12-2021/k-100-letiyu-sssr-belorussiya-vosstanovit-sovetskuyu-politicheskuyu-sistemu).

What this means is that “the Soviet political system” is being restored in Belarus; and if past practice holds, it will be restored in the Russian Federation as well, Inozemtsev says. (For examples of Russian copying of Belarusian steps, see vedomosti.ru/opinion/articles/2015/08/19/605372-vsled-za-lukashenko.)

What the Belarusian draft constitution calls for is “the creation of a certain structure not chosen by the citizens directly but composed of various kinds of deputies and representatives,” something that would complete the destruction of representative democracy as usually understood and create a system in which the powers would not have to face the voters.

“The Belarusian document,” Inozemtsev argues, “offers a practically ideal variant of ‘the rotation’ of bureaucratic structures, the profanation of popular representation and the complete removal of any branches of power from under the control of the voters.”  

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And he concludes: “post-Soviet authoritarian systems develop according to the following principle – from formally contemporary electoral systems to strata representation and from there to the strengthening of the ‘natural’ right of elites to power. This path presupposes a rejection of the supremacy of law and a return to dictatorship.”

That is what is happening in Belarus now and is likely to happen in Russia in the not too distant future, the analyst says.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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