On Friday 30 December, Alexander Lukashenko, the self-proclaimed president of Belarus, signed amendments to the law "On the National Assembly [Parliament] of the Republic of Belarus" which will allow him to remain in politics even after the formal termination of his powers.
Source: European Pravda, citing BelTA, the Belarusian state-owned national news agency
The changes reduce the authority of the Belarusian parliament in favour of a newly established body, the All-Belarusian People's Assembly, formed after a so-called referendum that amended the constitution of Belarus.
Firstly, instead of two sessions, the Belarusian People's Assembly will have only one, from September to June. Secondly, the right to elect judges to the constitutional court and members of the central election commission has been taken away from the parliament.
Members of both chambers of the Belarusian parliament - the House of Representatives (lower) and the Council of the Republic (upper) - will sit in the All-Belarusian People's Assembly as delegates.
Finally, Lukashenko has legislated that a president of Belarus who has ceased to exercise his powers will become a life member of the Council of the Republic with his or her consent. A similar provision was adopted in Russia in 2020, whereby Vladimir Putin will be able to sit on Russia’s Federation Council after the theoretical termination of his presidential powers.
Lukashenko’s regime claims that more than 65% of Belarusians supported the draft of the new constitution. It provides for the establishment of a new body, the All-Belarusian People's Assembly, which will have the right to dismiss the president and recognise election results.
It was long believed that the new constitution would open up a political transition in which Lukashenko would leave the presidency and head the All-Belarusian People's Assembly. However, it later transpired that the new constitution "resets" Lukashenko's previous presidential terms, and also allows him to hold the positions of both president and head of the All-Belarusian People's Assembly.
Lukashenko consolidated his power after the August 2020 presidential elections, which were not recognised by most of the world's states. The Belarusian government in exile, headed by opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, was set up as a result.