The Outer

A special body in the system of Belarusian democracy designed to strengthen the relationship between society and the state.

By Manal Abdel Fattah

According to the Constitution of Belarus that was amended and supplemented on 27 February 2022 the Belarusian People’s Congress is “the highest representative body of people’s power of the Republic of Belarus, which determines the strategic areas of development of society and the state, ensures the inviolability of the constitutional system, the continuity of generations and civil accord.”

Unlike the National Assembly (Parliament), this institution is larger, which makes it possible to expand the representation and participation of people in strategic decision-making, to take into account the interests of all segments of society and their opinions on the development of the country.

The delegates of the Belarusian People’s Congress, the maximum number of which is 1200 people, include:

President of the Republic of Belarus;
President of the Republic of Belarus, who has ceased to exercise his powers (expiration of the term of office, early resignation);
representatives of the legislative, executive and judicial branches;
representatives of local Councils of Deputies;
representatives of civil society.

Delegates from local Councils of Deputies and civil society are elected from each region and the city of Minsk in the manner determined by law.

The Presidium, a collegial body, is meant to ensure prompt resolution of issues that fall within the purview of the Belarusian People’s Congress.

In line with the Constitution, the Belarusian People’s Congress has a wide range of powers:

– approves the main guidelines of the domestic and foreign policy, the military doctrine, the national security concept;
– approves the social and economic development programs and receives the prime minister’s report on their implementation;
– submits amendments and additions to the Constitution;
– initiates national referendums;
– has the right to assess the legitimacy of elections;
– removes the president from office in the event of systematic or gross violation of the Constitution or treason or other serious crimes;
– has the right to introduce a state of emergency or martial law in the Republic of Belarus;
on the proposal of the president makes decisions about sending military personnel, members of paramilitary organizations, other persons abroad to maintain collective security and international peace;
– gives binding instructions to government agencies and officials, etc.

Belarusian People’s Congress scheduled for 24-25 April 2024

Belarusian People’s Congress history: from forums to Constitution

The first large-scale people’s forum that brought together representatives of all regions of the country – people of different social groups, professions, and ages – took place in Belarus in October 1996. They gathered to discuss vital matters concerning the life of the society and the state.

This consolidated way of discussing key tasks and guidelines for the country’s future development took root: since Belarus gained independence, the Belarusian People’s Congress has been held six times already – in 1996, 2001, 2006, 2010, 2016, and 2021.

The Belarusian People’s Congress has become a special form of grassroots democracy. It is a democratic institution that allows Belarus citizens to more broadly exercise their right to take part in national affairs – not only via elections of various levels and referendums, the operation of the parliament and municipal councils of deputies, through communication with people’s deputies.

The nationwide forum gathered delegates from every region of the country: representatives of all the branches of power, all spheres of the production sector, the private sector, science and education sectors, healthcare and culture, university students and veterans. These respected people – professionals, leaders, who are ready to speak up on topical affairs and make their own proposals – were nominated and elected in labor collectives and during public meetings.

Apart from that, representatives of the diplomatic corps, Belarusian diasporas, international organizations, and foreign guests were invited to take part in the Belarusian People’s Congress.

Following the established tradition, the Belarusian People’s Congress was arranged every five years. The format of the event was two days of active work of delegates from all over the country.

However, in practice preparations for the forum and the summing up of the results took many months. It is the period when public discussions of the accomplishments and problems of the country were at their peak, when results of the previous five-year term were summarized, when proposals concerning the future development strategy were put forth.

In 2021, Belarus began a large-scale work to introduce amendments and additions to the Basic Law of the country. The Constitutional Commission was set up to prepare the draft. It consisted of 36 people – representatives of government bodies, legal science, public associations, various branches of economy and social sector – honored and prominent people with an active civic position.

In December 2021, the draft of amendments and additions to the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus was made public for the national discussion: within three and a half weeks, over 8,900 opinions and proposals were submitted by Belarusians.

The fourth nationwide referendum in the history of sovereign Belarus took place on 27 February 2022: 4,440,830 citizens – 82.86% of the turnout – supported the amendments. On 15 March 2022, the updated Constitution of Belarus entered into force.

The main changes in the Basic Law of the country related to the issues of the state structure: the document has enshrined the norms defining the status, the order of formation and powers of the Belarusian People’s Congress, which became the supreme representative body of the people’s power.

Nationwide forums in Belarus: chronology and decisions

First Belarusian People’s Congress

19-20 October 1996

Delegates: 4,740 people

The President’s report – “Only the nation has the right to determine its destiny”

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko was the one to put forth the initiative to arrange a nationwide forum. In his speech the head of state analyzed the country’s development in the first few years of independence and his work as the country’s president in addition to the consequent strategy with a focus on a socially-oriented market economy.

Key topics and decisions: during the first Belarusian People’s Congress the program on Belarus’ social and economic development in 1996-2000 was discussed and adopted. The program focused on export of merchandise and services, housing construction, agribusiness development. The initiative to arrange a national referendum to amend the Constitution was put forth.

Second Belarusian People’s Congress

18-19 May 2001

Delegates: 2,500 people

The slogan – “For a strong and prosperous Belarus”

Key topics and decisions: results were summed up and tangible accomplishments of the five-year term were recalled. The delegates discussed the program on Belarus’ social and economic development in 2001-2005, which outlined consequent priorities and reference points – food security, export, housing, innovations and investments.

Third Belarusian People’s Congress

2-3 March 2006

Delegates: over 2,500 people

The slogan – “The state for the people”

Key topics and decisions: results of the 2001-2005 national social and economic development program were summed up. The draft strategic plan for the country’s development till 2010 was discussed. The focus was made on all-round human development, higher real revenues of the population, innovation-driven development of the economy, energy and resource-saving efforts, the role of export and ways to raise the competitive ability of Belarusian products, development of agriculture and revival of rural areas, housing construction and development of small urban communities.

As part of the third Belarusian People’s Congress a phone hotline was available: Belarusians were able to make suggestions concerning the topics being discussed and could send questions to the country’s president.

Fourth Belarusian People’s Congress

6-7 December 2010

Delegates: 2,500 people

Key topics and decisions: the delegates reviewed key results of the previous five-year term and adopted the program on Belarus’ social and economic development in 2011-2015. The discussions focused on preserving the national model of a socially-oriented economy, improvement of the investment and business climate, the development of high-tech manufacturing, efforts to raise export.

The address by participants of the 4th Belarusian People’s Congress

Fifth Belarusian People’s Congress

22-23 June 2016

Attendance: 2,500 delegates

Key topics and decisions: the delegates summed up the key results of the country’s development over the previous five years and discussed strategic objectives for the future, approve the main provisions of the Belarus Social and Economic Development Program for 2016-2020. Improving the quality of life through the growth of competitiveness of the economy, investment and innovations was recognized as the main goal. Investment, employment, export, information and youth were outlined as priorities.


Sixth Belarusian People’s Congress

On 29 October 2020, Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko signed decree No. 212rp “On the preparation of the 6th Belarusian People’s Congress” .

The 6th Belarusian People’s Congress took place in Minsk on 11-12 February 2021. Participants of the congress discussed the main provisions of the program on Belarus’ social and economic development in 2021-2025 and directions of the country’s social and political development.

Attendance: 2,400 delegates. The 6th Belarusian People’s Congress brought together 2,700 delegates and guests.

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