1996 Belarus Referendum
A seven-question referendum was held in Belarus
Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

 on 24 November 1996. Four questions were put forward by President Alexander Lukashenko
Alexander Lukashenko
Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko has been serving as the President of Belarus since 20 July 1994. Before his career as a politician, Lukashenko worked as director of a state-owned agricultural farm. Under Lukashenko's rule, Belarus has come to be viewed as a state whose conduct is out of line...

 on changing the date of the country's independence day, amending the constitution, changing laws on the sale of land and the abolition of the death penalty. The Supreme Council put forward three questions on constitutional amendments by the Communist and Agrarian factions, local elections and the national finances.

Only two of the proposals, changing the date of independence day and Lukashenko's constitutional amendments, were approved. Voter turnout was 84.1%.


In the summer of 1996 President Lukashenko presented constitutional amendments for approval to the Supreme Soviet. However, the Soviet then produced a counterproposal, one provision of which would abolish the position of President. The ensuing power struggle escalated quickly, leading to intervention by Russian officials to try and negotiate a compromise that included declaring that the referendum would not be binding.

Question I: Independence Day

Voters were asked whether Independence Day (Republic Day) should be moved to 3 July, the day of liberation of Belarus from Nazi Germany in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

Choice Votes %
For 5,450,830 89.4
Against 646,708 10.6
Invalid/blank votes 83,925
Total 6,181,463 100
Source: Nohlen & Stöver

Question II: Presidential constitutional amendments

Voters were asked whether they approved of constitutional amendments put forward by President Lukashenko
Choice Votes %
For 5,175,664 88.2
Against 689,642 11.8
Invalid/blank votes 316,157
Total 6,181,463 100
Source: Nohlen & Stöver

Question III: Sale of land

Voters were asked whether they approved of the free sale of land.
Choice Votes %
For 948,756 15.6
Against 5,123,386 84.4
Invalid/blank votes 109,321
Total 6,181,463 100
Source: Nohlen & Stöver

Question IV: Death penalty abolition

Voters were asked whether they approved of the abolition of the death penalty.
Choice Votes %
For 1,108,226 18.2
Against 4,972,535 81.8
Invalid/blank votes 100,702
Total 6,181,463 100
Source: Nohlen & Stöver

Question V: Soviet constitutional amendments

Voters were asked whether they approved of the constitutional amendments put foward by the Supreme Soviet.
Choice Votes %
For 582,437 10.0
Against 5,230,763 90.0
Invalid/blank votes 368,263
Total 6,181,463 100
Source: Nohlen & Stöver

Question VI: Local elections

Voters were asked whether they approved of the direct elections to local bodies.
Choice Votes %
For 1,739,178 28.7
Against 4,321,866 71.3
Invalid/blank votes 120,419
Total 6,181,463 100
Source: Nohlen & Stöver

Question VII: State financing

Voters were asked whether all state expenses should be part of the national budget.
Choice Votes %
For 1,989,252 32.8
Against 4,070,261 67.2
Invalid/blank votes 121,950
Total 6,181,463 100
Source: Nohlen & Stöver


Although Lukashenko and the Supreme Soviet had signed the agreement that the Soviet would have the final decision on whether to adopt the constitutional amendments, Lukashenko broke the agreement. After the constitution was promulgated a new House of Representatives was assembled, with only Lukashenko loyalists admitted. Around sixty members of the Supreme Soviet who rejected the new constitution continued to work in the Soviet, which was recognised as the legitimate parliamenty by the international community.


Due to several violations of electoral norms and Lukashenko's use of the state-owned media, Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 and some other CIS
Commonwealth of Independent States
The Commonwealth of Independent States is a regional organization whose participating countries are former Soviet Republics, formed during the breakup of the Soviet Union....

 countries were the only members of the OCSE
Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe is the world's largest security-oriented intergovernmental organization. Its mandate includes issues such as arms control, human rights, freedom of the press and fair elections...

 to recognise the results.

The Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Belarusian Helsinki Committee
The Belarusian Helsinki Committee is a non-governmental human rights organization established in 1995 and the sole remaining independent human rights group in Belarus...

 found that::
  1. The local referendum commissions that should have been formed by local legislative bodies no later than one month before the referendu, were only set up for 5–7 days;
  2. President Lukashenko illegally removed Viktar Hanchar
    Viktar Hanchar
    Viktar Hanchar was a Belarusian politician who disappeared and was presumably killed in 1999.Hanchar graduated from the Belarusian State University Law faculty in 1979 and worked as law research worker at different major Belarusian institutions....

    , chairman of the Central Commission for Elections and National Referendums, from office. As a result, the work of the Commission, that was supposed to control the legality of the vote, was paralyzed;
  3. By the time early voting began (9 November), polling stations had not been provided with proposed amendments and additions to the Constitutions, so the citizens did not know what they were voting for;
  4. Voters were illegally called (and in many cases forced) to vote earlier than the actual date of the referendum. As a result, by the day of the referendum, nearly a quarter of voters has already voted;
  5. Ballot papers were printed by the Office of Presidential Affairs of the Republic of Belarus. They were taken to polling stations without passing through the Central Commission for Elections and National Referendums and its regional divisions. There was no accounting for the number of ballots;
  6. The referendum was funded not from the state budget, but from unknown "charitable" contributions, which was illegal. The Central Commission for Elections and National Referendums was completely removed from funding the referendum;
  7. There was agitation and propaganda in favour of the position of president Lukashenko. In some cases the agitation was carried out directly at polling stations;
  8. On the day of the referendum, observers, representatives of political parties and public organizations had obstacles placed in their way in trying to monitoring the voting, they were not allowed to enter the voting stations and were not given information they required;
  9. There were numerous violations of the law at polling stations, such as no booths for secret ballots, no draft amendments and additions to the Constitution, voters were allowed to vote without presenting identification documents, seals on ballot boxes have been damaged, evidence of forgery of voter signatures have been found.

The opposition also spoke of rigging of the referendum. According to Siarhiej Kaliakin, head of the Communist faction of the parliament, 20 to 50 percent of the votes counted have been falsified. Siamion Sharetski, speaker of parliament, called the 1996 referendum "a farce and violence against the people" and said that "the outcome of such a plebiscite could not be accepted either in Belarus nor by the international community". The opposition did not recognise the results of the, not those of the previous referendum held in 1995. The oppositional Conservative Christian Party
Conservative Christian Party
The Conservative Christian Party of the Belarusian People's Front , is a political party in Belarus, that opposes the government of president Alexander Lukashenko...

calls for a return to the Constitution of 1994. Alena Skryhan, the deputy head of Communist fraction of the Parliament in 1996 said that the referendum had led to monopolization of all branches of power by president Lukashenko.

External links

Projects of the Constitution

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.