Belarusians vote for constitutional amendments

Election commission announced that over 65% voted in favor

In a referendum held on Sunday, Belarusian citizens approved amendments to the constitution. The new changes could pave the way for long-standing president Alexander Lukashenko to leave office.

“65.16% of the participants of the referendum that were in the voting lists have voted in favor of accepting changes and amendments to the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus”, the head of the election commission Igor Karpenko announced on Monday night.

Critics have claimed that the process was not conducted democratically. Before the vote, Western-backed exiled opposition figure Svetlana Tikhanovskaya – the official runner up in the disputed 2020 election – declared herself to be the country’s “national leader.”

According to authorities, 10.07% of the voters were against the amendments. They also stated that more than 78% of voters attended polling stations during the main stage of voting, making the referendum legally valid. The final meeting of the elections commission will take place on March 3.

The new package of reforms suggests the new People’s Assembly would be responsible for approving key state documents, while the role of the president will officially weaken, with their term now limited to two five-year periods. Lukashenko has held office for almost three decades. 

They also suggest that a former head of state could become a lifetime member of the parliament’s upper house and would be provided with immunity for actions taken during their terms in office. There are also some changes concerning the president’s right to impose a state of emergency, as well as some family law amendments and a “non-aggression” pledge.

The revisions were put to the people as a single package, with the only question formulated as “Do you approve the changes and add-ons to the Republic of Belarus’ Constitution?” with two options: “Yes” and “No.”

Western countries have said they won’t recognize the results of the referendum, which is taking place amid a crackdown against domestic opposition, according to Reuters.

The referendum sparked anti-war protests in several cities, including capital Minsk. More than 540 people were detained, according to the human rights center “Vesna” (“Spring”).

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