25 years ago, on 15 March 1994, the Supreme Soviet adopted the Constitution of independent Belarus.
Over its entire history, Belarus has had six constitutions: those of 1918 (temporary), 1927, 1937, 1978 and 1994. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, there were deliberate discussions about the latest constitutional document that was approved in 1994. In accordance with the original version of the country’s fundamental law, considerable authority was conferred to the Supreme Council of the Republic of Belarus. The legislative body had the right to adopt and amend the Constitution, set elections and referenda, elect supreme judges, Prosecutor General, Chairman and the Board of the National Bank of Belarus, as well as dissolve local councils and even define the state’s military doctrine.
However, when Alyaksandr Lukashenka came to power, the Supreme Court was disbanded and the Constitution was amended three times.
The first referendum in the history of sovereign Belarus took place on May 14, 1995. At the initiative of Alyaksandr Lukashenka, four questions were put to the popular vote concerning state symbols, language, integration with Russia and the president’s right to dissolve the parliament (the Supreme Council).
According to the CEC of Belarus, 83.3% voted in favour of giving the Russian language an equal status with the Belarusian language, and 83.3% voted in favour of the new flag and coat of arms – those reminiscent of Soviet symbolism, 83.1% said ‘yes’ to “the actions of the President of the Republic of Belarus aimed at economic integration with the Russian Federation,” and 77.7% voted in favour of the Lukashenka’s right to dissolve the parliament.
As a result of the 1995 referendum,historical Belarusian symbols were replaced by the Soviet ones, an emblem that bears a close resemblance to that of the BSSR and a red and green flag which was introduced in Stalin’s time. Two days after the referendum, the white-red-white flag was torn to pieces on the roof of the presidential administration, and the Pahonya (Pursuit) emblem was removed from the Government House.
It should be noted that 18 deputies who opposed the referendum went on a hunger strike. On the night of 11 to 12 April 1995, pro- Lukashenka riot police and security forces forcefully removed the deputies from the building.
The referendum of November 24, 1996 was also held on the initiative of Alyaksandr Lukashenka. It rounded into making amendments to the Constitution, which, among other things, extended the then presidential term of Lukashenka for two and a half years. The referendum results were not recognized by the international community. After the voting in 1996, Lukashenka disbanded the Supreme Soviet and established the rubber-stamping National Assembly, received the authority to hold referendums and appoint top officials. His decrees and orders became stronger than laws.
In 2004, with the help of another referendum, the head of state made possible his running for the third and even following presidential terms.