Democratic Consolidation in Eastern Europe - Vol. 1

By Jan Zielonka | Go to book overview

11 Constitutionalism in Belarus: A False Start

Alexander Lukashuk

From all accounts, the constitutionalization process has failed to contribute to democratic consolidation in Belarus. Whereas all the other post-communist states have adopted constitutions that have had a clear affect on the political process, Belarus's Constitution is, at best, an occasionally used tool for manipulation by the country's autocratic president Aliaksandar Lukashenka. But the fact that the Constitution remains at the centre of the struggle between President Lukashenka (who maintains that the Constitution approved by the November 1996 referendum is the sole foundation of law in the country) and the democratic opposition (which considers the Constitution drafted by the president illegal and the new legislative body, the National Assembly, illegitimate) at least shows that the Constitution cannot be ignored. Moreover, a closer look at the constitution-drafting process reveals that certain choices (and omissions) laid the foundation for the current undemocratic regime.


Promising Signs

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Gorbachev's glasnost policy had a strange impact on the Soviet public. There was something religious in the way people read newspapers and watched television. The general belief was that words themselves, if strung along in the right sequence, had the power to set things right. This was particularly true if the words were contained in a constitution. The public longing for a new constitutional testament could not be ignored by any political force. Belarus, it seemed at the time, was no exception.

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