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Belarus, Government

presidential republic, presidential authority, referendum results, Supreme Soviet, little voice

Belarus adopted its first post-Soviet constitution in 1994. Under the constitution, a popularly elected president replaced the chairperson of the unicameral (single-chamber) legislature, called the Supreme Soviet, as head of state; the president could dismiss the prime minister and members of the Council of Ministers, but not the legislature or other elected governing bodies. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who was elected in the first presidential election of 1994, initiated a referendum in 1996 with a proposal to amend the constitution to broaden his presidential authority, extend his term from five to seven years, and create a bicameral (two-chamber) legislature. On November 24, amid widespread allegations of vote fraud, official tallies showed the presidentís proposal had passed with more than 70 percent of the vote. Lukashenka immediately dissolved the opposition-led Supreme Soviet and created a new legislature composed of his supporters. Although the Constitutional Court previously ruled the referendum results were to be used only for advisory purposes, within days the new legislature passed a law making the results binding. The next day, November 28, Lukashenka signed into law the new constitution. Belarus is now a presidential republic in which the opposition has little voice. All citizens have the right to vote from the age of 18.

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Article key phrases:

presidential republic, presidential authority, referendum results, Supreme Soviet, little voice, Constitutional Court, presidential election, Council of Ministers, new constitution, elected president, citizens, opposition, prime minister, head of state, Belarus, chairperson, supporters, percent, law, days, term, age, right, members, years


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