Five facts about the referendum in Belarus

The war rages in Ukraine and attacks come through Belarus. Amidst the war, Lukashenko organizes a referendum. Here are five crucial facts about the referendum and why it threatens both the Belarusian people and international security.

Sunday 27th of February there will be a referendum on changes in the Belarusian constitution. The change of one the articles, suggested at this referendum, will make it possible for other countries to deploy their weapons, including nuclear weapons, on the territory of Belarus.


Fact n. 1 

According to the present constitution, Belarus aspires to be a neutral state free of nuclear weapons. Article n. 18 states: 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 universally recognized principles and norms of international law. The Republic of Belarus aims to make its territory a nuclear-free zone, and the state – neutral.  

The amendments to this article will make it sound as follows: The Republic of Belarus excludes military aggression from its territory against other states.

Whatever the wording, it seems like the constitution is being disrespected at this very moment, while international community is watching Russian army entering Ukraine from Belarusian lands. However, the situation might get even uglier. If this amendment is accepted, other countries will be able to deploy their nuclear weapons on the territory of the country and send Belarusian soldiers to fight for other states.


Fact n. 2 

The rhetoric of the soviet patriotism that has been used by the Russian authorities for a number of years now will be written into the Belarusian constitution. The new amendment states that: The state ensures the preservation of historical truth in memory of the heroic feat of the Belarusian people during the Second World War.

Just like Putin, Lukashenko claims that “the west” is trying to change Belarusian psychology of the winners and it’s crucial for the nation to keep it alive. This type of psychology shadows suffering of millions of the soviet regime’s victims and give the current regime possibility to exploit the achievements that it has nothing to do with.

By coincidence or not, the current school reform made the exam in the history of Belarus redundant for the middle school students.


Fact n. 3

The amendments to the constitution suggest returning to the former rule, that states that one person cannot be president of Belarus for more than 2 terms, however it will only come into force from the new term of the next president. It means that if Lukashenko falsifies the results of the next elections and wins, he can potentially remain president till 2035.


Fact n. 4

It is also suggested that the duties of the president will be restricted. The president will no longer be able to select the members of the electoral commission and appoint judges. It will also be possible to impeach if it is proven that he/she was acting in breach of the constitution. But who will have this authority and why would Lukashenko want to make these changes? The answer is in the scariest fact, fact n. 5.


Fact n. 5

The fourth quasi-branch of the government, so called All-Belarusian People’s Assembly, is to become the highest power. It will not be selected by the people of the country, but rather consists of the appointed politicians and deputies. The head of the assembly will have the power to replace the president in case of impeachment and death. The assembly will have all the authority that the president together with the parliament and the courts have at the moment.

This copycats the system that, till recently, flourished in Kazakhstan and gave the former president possibility to rule even after he lost in elections.


Bonus fact 

A new article 89 states that: A president who has completed the exercise of his duties cannot be held accountable for any acts committed in connection with the performance of the presidential duties. 

Belarusian citizens residing abroad will not be allowed to participate in this referendum at their local embassies. According to Lukashenko’s government this service will not be provided to avoid Covid-spreading and terror actions. Quite a big number of Belarusians will be deprived their right to political participation. While those who will vote inside the country will be deprived their right to confidentiality. According to the new rules of the current government, the voting boots are to be open.

Norwegian Helsinki Committee denounces any political processes that are not implemented in line with the rule of law and with respect to the universal human rights.

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Aliaksandra Safonava

Program Assistant, Project Manager for BelarusEmail: [email protected]Phone: 46373631
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Berit Lindeman

Secretary GeneralEmail: [email protected]Phone: +47 909 33 379Twitter: @LindemanBerit
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Dag A. Fedøy

Director of CommunicationsEmail: [email protected]Phone: +47 920 54 309Twitter: @dagfedoy
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