Belarus

Administration and society of Belarus

The new constitution of Belarus, which established the country as a “democratic, social state” and stipulated a wide range of rights and liberties, came into force in March 1994. The division of legislative, executive, and judicial authorities served as its foundation. The Supreme Soviet, the government’s highest legislative body, was comprised of deputies elected under the 1994 constitution by universal adult suffrage for five-year terms. The Supreme Soviet approved the budget, called for national elections and referenda, and oversaw domestic, foreign, and military policy.

However, the constitution was changed to significantly increase the president’s powers in a referendum that was passed in November 1996 (and whose legitimacy was contested by many Belarusians and by a large portion of the international community).

Thus, President Alexander Lukashenko, who had been chosen for the position in 1994, was granted the authority to extend his tenure and rule through decree. The National Assembly, a bicameral parliament that was restored, saw its authority significantly reduced under the modified constitution. In later legislative elections, which were regarded erroneous or undemocratic by international observers, pro-Lukashenko candidates dominated the field.

The president, who serves as the head of state, is chosen by the people to serve a five-year term. The prime minister, who is officially the head of state but in reality reports to the president, is chosen by the president. The Council of the Republic and the House of Representatives make up the National Assembly. The majority of the Council’s members are chosen by regional councils for four-year terms, although a tiny minority are chosen by the president. House members are chosen by the general public to serve four-year terms.

Local authorities

The municipal government is split into three layers. The largest comprises of Minsk, a municipality (horad), and six voblastsi (provinces). Cities and rayony (sectors) are separated into the provinces, and some of the larger cities are further divided into rayony. The top tier consists of settlements, towns, and villages.

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Justice

The Supreme Court and its lower courts, the Supreme Economic Court and its lower courts, and the Constitutional Court, which has the final say on the republic’s fundamental law, make up the legal system. There are 12 judges on the Constitutional Court, and their tenure are for 11 years. The president appoints half of the justices, and the Republic’s Council elects the other half.

Political action

In Belarus, women can vote at 18 years old. There are more than a dozen officially recognized political parties, but since the election of Lukashenko in 1994, support for the president has been more important for political success than party membership. The president is, in fact, impartial to all political parties. The Communist Party of Belarus (KPB), the monolithic Soviet-era Communist Party’s successor, the Liberal Democratic Party of Belarus, and the Agrarian Party are some of the organizations that back Lukashenko. Although they are allowed, opposition parties have had little electoral success.

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Among them are the Party of Communists of Belarus (PKB), Party of the Belarusian Popular Front (BPF), Conservative-Christian Party of the Belarusian Popular Front, United Civic Party, a right-of-center party, and Belarusian Social Democrats, a left-of-center party. Several other political groups, most notably the Belarusian Christian Democracy Party, have been denied recognition by the government.Two political youth organizations are the Young Front, an unregistered opposition party, and the Union of Patriotic Youth, which is supported by the government.

Despite the fact that factionalism has a tendency to harm the opposition, the majority of opposition parties and certain nongovernmental organizations came together to establish the United Democratic Forces (UDF) in order to support a single candidate to run against Lukashenko in the 2006 presidential election. After losing the election, the UDF organized for the 2008 legislative elections, but the opposition’s candidates once more were unsuccessful in winning any seats.

Security

The military, the Special Purpose Police Units (OMON) of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the Committee for State Security (KGB) are some of the elements that make up Belarus’ security system. The Soviet military forces stationed on Belarusian soil gave rise to the Belarusian army, whose personnel were compelled to swear allegiance to the Republic of Belarus on January 1, 1993. The army and the air force are currently parts of Belarus’ armed forces. There are also regionally coordinated territorial defense forces.

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Military duty is required for Belarusians between the ages of 18 and 27; the minimum term is 12 months for those with postsecondary education and 18 months for those without a college degree. Political opposition organizations, outsiders, and the business community are all actively monitored by internal security authorities like the KGB and OMON.

Welfare and health

Health care is supposedly free for all Belarusians and is managed by the government and paid for by taxes. Although some private medical practices and clinics have established, the majority of medical services are provided by state-owned facilities. Health posts or health stations in rural areas offer primary medical treatment; the former are staffed by nurses, midwives, or other paramedical workers, while the latter have doctors on staff. Polyclinics, which combine the responsibilities of a general practitioner health center with a hospital outpatient department, provide healthcare services to urban regions.

Inadequate education and technology during the Soviet era contributed to a system that has failed to provide for many fundamental medical needs in independent Belarus. While some healthcare institutions have undergone modernization, many still lack the most recent technology. Additionally, since independence, the prevalence of infectious diseases has significantly increased. The increase in HIV/AIDS infections, a significant fraction of which are linked to intravenous drug use, is a serious public health issue. The Belarusian government not only subsidizes health care but also offers significant welfare benefits to its inhabitants, including pensions and paid maternity leave.

Housing

Apartment buildings are the most typical type of housing in cities, with individual homes mostly found in suburbs and rural areas. Although many new housing complexes, particularly in Minsk, have been built since independence, many prefabricated apartment buildings from the Soviet era still stand today. The majority of city dwellers rent their apartments instead of buying them. The severe housing shortage that existed during the Soviet era still persists today despite the fact that rents are subsidized and kept low.

Education

Under the former Soviet Union, Belarus almost completely achieved universal literacy. From the age of seven to sixteen, education is required. The Belarusian State University was founded in Minsk in 1921, the Belarus State Economic University in 1933, and the Minsk State Linguistic University in 1948. Other educational institutions include the Yanka Kupala State University in Hrodna in 1978, the Francisk Skorina State University in Homyel in 1969, and the Belarusian Agricultural Academy in Horki in 1848. There are also numerous educational, agricultural, technological, and medical institutions. The main scientific body in Belarus, with its headquarters in Minsk, is the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus (1929).

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