More than 65% of Belarusians voted on Sunday February 27 for the amendments to the Constitution proposed by President Alexander Lukashenko, announced the Central Electoral Commission of this former Soviet republic, arousing the concern of the European Union which denounced the voting conditions.
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The question put to the vote was whether or not to adopt these amendments, which would strengthen the powers of the 67-year-old president, who has ruled Belarus with an iron fist since 1994.
Widely adopted reforms
“65.16% of voters voted for the amendments to the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus”, announced the chairman of the Belarusian Central Election Commission, Igor Karpenko, quoted by Russian news agencies. According to him, 10.07% voted against, and the participation rate was 78.63%. To be adopted, the amendments needed to obtain more than 50% of the votes.
Among the proposed changes are lifelong legal immunity for former presidents, and the introduction of a two-term presidential limit for President Lukashenko’s successors. If the Constitution did not envisage a limit before, it would apply from the entry into office of a new president, which would allow Alexander Lukashenko to remain in power until 2035 if he is re-elected in 2025.
End of nuclear neutrality
In the amended version, the obligation for Belarus to remain a “nuclear-free zone”. This article would be replaced by an article “excluding military aggression from the territory” Belarusian. The head of European Union diplomacy Josep Borrell strongly condemned this change, describing this reform as “very dangerous”. “The proposed changes to the Constitution give Lukashenko additional tools to further consolidate his power”he further lamented in a press release.
Josep Borrell also challenged the validity of this organized ballot “in a context of widespread human rights violations”. “These are not the conditions for a democratic process of constitutional revision”he added.
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The referendum came as neighboring Ukraine is in the throes of a Russian invasion that began on February 24, as talks between Russians and Ukrainians, announced by both sides, were taking place on the Belarusian border. . Part of the Russian troops launched the invasion from Belarusian territory.