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BELARUS : THE COUNCIL OF THE REPUBLIC



Context:

The Council of the Republic was established in accordance with the constitutional referendum of 24 November 1996.

I - COMPOSITION

According to the Constitution, the Council of the Republicis expressly in charge of representing territories. It is composed of 64 members:

- the 6 regions of the country (voblasts), and the capital Minsk, elect 8 representatives each, for a total of 56 elected members;

- 8 other members are appointed by the Head of State.

II - ELECTORAL SYSTEM

In each region as well as in the capital, councils of local representatives elect 8 representatives among their members, at the majority system (the representatives choose as many candidates as the number of available seats in the constituency - namely 8 - and the 8 candidates obtaining the greater number of votes are elected).

The term of office is 4 years. The Constitution provides however for a possibility of dissolution and recall, which might reduce this period.

The last renewal goes back to 15 November 2004.

To be eligible, Belarus citizens must be at least 30 year-old, and living in the electoral constituency for at least 5 years.

Candidates shall meet one condition: to be presented by the presidium of local councils of deputies in the regions and in Minsk.

The mandate of member of the Council of the Republicis not compatible with that of member of the House of Representatives, member of the Government, President of the Republic, or judge.

III - SESSIONS SYSTEM

The chambers of Parliament have two ordinary sessions per year. The first one begins on 2 October and lasts at most 80 days. The second one begins on 2 April and cannot exceed 90 days.

At the initiative of the President or a majority of at least 2/3 of each chamber membership, the assemblies may convene in extraordinary sessions, on presidential decree, according to a specific agenda.

A session as of right of the Council of the Republictakes place within 30 days after the first meeting of the local councils in charge of electing the members of the Council of the Republic.

IV - RELATIONSHIP WITH THE OTHER CHAMBER AND THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH

A - LEGISLATIVE POWER

1) Legislative initiative

The right to legislative initiative belongs to the President together with the Government, the members of the two chambers, and the citizens if they are at least 50,000 to support the initiative.

An initiative which results in a reduction of public revenues or in an increase of public expenses can only be tabled with the Government consent.

2) Right to amendment

The Constitution does not mention the right to amendment for members of the Council of the Republic. It only mentions the right to approve or reject the texts adopted by the House of Representatives.

3) Legislative procedure

a) Ordinary procedure

Whatever its origin, a legislative initiative is submitted and examined in the first place at the House of Representatives.

A bill is considered as definitively adopted when it is adopted by turns in either chamber at the majority of its members.

A text adopted by the Lower Chamber is sent within 5 days to the Council of the Republic, which has 20 days to consider it (this period may vary in some cases provided for by the Constitution, especially in case of emergency).

If the majority of the members of the Council of the Republic agree with the text, or if the Council of the Republic does not manage to decide on the text within the given time, the text is considered adopted once and for all.

In the event of a disagreement, both chambers have the possibility to ask for the meeting of a joint committee. The text resulting from the work of this committee is submitted for approval to both chambers.

If ever the committee does not manage to produce a text of compromise or if its text is not adopted by both chambers, the President or, at his request, the Government may ask the House of Representatives to decide in the last resort. The Lower Chamber shall then adopt the text at a two-third majority.

A text adopted by the Parliament is sent to the President. If he accepts it or does not give a decision within 15 days after it is sent, the text is promulgated. Otherwise, the President sends the text back to the House of Representatives along with his observations. The chamber has then 30 days to decide once again, before submitting the text to the Higher Chamber for a second reading.

At the end of the second reading, the Parliament may disregard the presidential veto if each chamber confirms the text adopted initially by a majority of two-thirds of its members. In this respect, it is interesting to note that, to lift the presidential veto, the two chambers must agree. A veto which applies to a text adopted by the Lower Chamber according to the rule of the final word, i.e. against the decision of the Higher Chamber, has therefore little chance to be lifted, because it means that, during this new discussion, the Council of the Republic should approve the text its has previously rejected.

Moreover, it is to be noted that the presidential veto may apply only partially to a text: the text is therefore promulgated without the provisions the President has disapproved, and which are sent back to the Parliament for another discussion, after what they will be either definitively censured, or passed into the law, according to the procedure described previously.

b) Specific procedure

The President or, at his request, the Government may speed up the examination procedure of a text in both chambers. In this case, each chamber has only 10 days to give a decision, from the date of transmission of the text.

In accordance with a procedure similar to the French single vote, the President or, at his request, the Government may ask either assembly to give a decision through a single vote on all or part of the text in discussion, by accepting only the amendments proposed or accepted by him.

Each chamber by a majority of its full membership may decide to enable the President, at his request, to legislate through decrees having force of law. It shall precise in which fields and for which duration the power to legislate through decrees is given to the President. Nevertheless, the Constitution provides for that, while being enabled to legislate, the President can neither modify the range of the bill which enabled him, nor amend the Constitution, limit the fundamental rights, or modify the finance bill.

If the need arises, and on his own initiative or at the request of the Government, the President may also take temporary decrees which must be submitted for approval to the Parliament within 3 days. These temporary decreescan be invalided if they are rejected, by each chamber, with a majority of at least two-thirds of the members.

B - CONTROLLING POWER

Once a month, a sitting is dedicated to questions to the Government.

C - DISSOLUTION AND EXTENSION

If the Constitutional Court notices flagrant and systematic violations of the Constitution by the Parliament chambers, the President can dissolve them, after an official consultation of the Speakers of the assemblies. The dissolution cannot take place during the state of emergency, the martial law, within the six months before the end of the presidential term or if an impeachment procedure regarding the President is under way.

In addition, the Lower Chamber can be dissolved when it has expressed a vote of no confidence towards the Government or if it refuses twice to give its consent to the nomination of the Prime Minister.

When either assembly is dissolved, the President may decide to dissolve the other.

V - SPECIAL ARRANGEMENTS

A - CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT

The initiative of a constitutional amendment belongs to the President or to a group of at least 150,000 citizens.

A constitutional amendment is adopted when it is voted twice by each chamber, at a two-third majority of its members, provided that there is a gap of at least 3 months between the two discussions.

It is possible to adopt a constitutional amendment through referendum. Parts I, II, IV, and VIII of the Constitution can be approved only through referendum.

The Parliament cannot pass a constitutional amendment during the state of emergency or within 6 months before the end of the legislature.

B - COMPETENCES VIS-A-VIS REGIONS

The Council of the Republic may cancel the decisions of the councils of local representatives when they are not in accordance with the legislation.

It may decide the dissolution of the councils of local representatives when they obviously and systematically do not comply with the requirements set up by the Law, or by bodies having a legal authority.

C -NOMINATION POWERS

The Council of the Republic gives consent to the appointment by the President of the Republic:

- of the Chairperson of the Constitutional Court,

- of the Prosecutor General,

- of the Chairperson and the members of the Supreme Court,

- of the Chairperson and the members of the Supreme Economic Court,

- of the Chairperson of the Central Commission on Elections and National Referendums,

- of the Chairperson and the members of the Board of the National Bank.

The Council of the Republic elects:

- 6 judges of the Constitutional Court,

- 6 members of the Central Commission on Elections and National Referendums.

D- JURIDICTIONAL COMPETENCES

The Council of the Republic considers an accusation of the country's President of committing high treason or other grave crime put forward by the House of Representatives. It decides on whether to investigate the case, and should there be relevant grounds, decide on the impeachment of the President by a majority of at least two thirds of its full membership.

Updated: November 2007