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BELARUSIANS DO NOT OBSERVE THE LAW BUT PREFER SEPARATION OF POWERS

What is the role of law in the life of the Belarusian society? Does it understand its importance and value or does it consider law to be a useless and unnecessary thing? How are human rights observed? This problem is an important one, which is indicated by the question “What would you do first if you become president of Belarus?”: the answers “I would make laws work” and “I would destroy mafia” top the chart (Table 1).
Table 1. Distribution of answers to the question “What would you do first if you become president of Belarus?” (more than one answer is possible)

The respondents think that social life in Belarus is primarily regulated by presidential decrees and resolutions, as well as “money and personal relations” (Table. 2). According to the results of the poll, people consider the Constitution and laws to be unimportant in the regulation of social life.

Table 2. What rules society in this country?, %

So, the law as an act, adopted by a supreme representative authority, loses its power, allowing government agencies to show arbitrariness. The Belarusian-style jural state is assuming the features of a totalitarian country, were all social processes and institutions are regulated by numerous acts issued by executive authorities rather than laws and the Constitution, where international law is ignored, while the structures of civil society and private business are non-existent.
The fact that laws do not work the way they should has a negative impact on the reputation of the National Assembly. Only 11.8% of respondents trust it, while 31.5% don’t, and only 9.7% of people think that it passes the laws in this country. Almost 66% of people think that the president passes laws and 23.6% suggest that it is government that adopts them. The society adequately assesses the role and place of the executive power in the process of adoption of new legislation. Therefore, the trust in the legislature and law is continually falling.
Most of the respondents (49.5%) think that a separation of powers is necessary. Only 14.1% said that they wanted the president to assume all the power in the country. Therefore, the existing state structure does not answer social needs: only 8.4% of respondents said that separation of powers is observed in Belarus; 48.3% disagreed with them.
The judicial power has a key role in the implementation of this principle. Most people (87.2%) think that courts were made to judge whether something is legal or illegal and pass verdicts in accordance with the law of the country. However, the absence of separation of powers and the judicial branch’s dependence on the executive branch has a negative influence on its public rating. According to the result of the survey, 41.5% do not trust in courts, which is twice as much as the percentage of respondents, who trust courts (23.6%).
People think that the human rights situation in this country continues to deteriorate. Table 3 shows that the rights to decent living standards, favorable environment, equality before law and freedom of speech are least protected. Only a quarter of respondents said their civil rights were protected, 18.1% thought their political rights were observed, and 7.4% of people said their social rights were protected.

Table 3. Observation of people’s rights in the Republic of Belarus, %

The rights are observed:
Always
Not always
Not observed
Observation index*
04’00
09’98
To freedom of movement, choice of place of residence
33.6
43.7
18.7
-0.072
+0.105
To national self-identification
32.1
40.9
21.1
-0.102
+0.285
Right to elect and be elected to government agencies
31.1
42.9
21.2
-0.121
-0.008
To freedom of association
21.2
51.4
22.1
-0.281
-0.146
To protection from intrusion into private life
19.6
49.1
26.5
-0.331
-0.124
To freedom of gatherings, meetings, marches
15.8
49.6
29.3
-0.405
-0.155
To freedom of opinion, belief and their expression
13.4
47.6
34.9
-0.471
-0.319
To equality of all before law
9.0
45.4
40.7
-0.572
-0.304
To favorable environment
8.4
41.7
45.4
-0.605
-0.446
To decent living standards
6.3
35.4
55.6
-0.689
-0.545

* The observation index is a correlation between the sum of negative (“not observed”=-1), partially negative (“not always observed”=-0.5), and positive answers (“always observed”=+1), and all the respondents

Insufficient legal protection, the state’s neglect for human rights, violation of the principle of everyone’s equality before law and imperfect legislation creates legal nihilism. Only 46.8% of respondents said that laws cannot be broken, even if they get in the way of their activities, while more than 50% said they were ready to violate the law. These two groups are different by their social characteristics.
The group of law–abiding citizens mostly consists of women, middle-aged and elderly people, people with a low level of education, senior citizens and employees of government-controlled companies. Those, who are ready to break the law, are young, better educated and work in the private sector. However, this is the group, which supports market reforms, Belarus’ ascension to the European Union and thinks they can make life in the country better themselves.
It is understood why a younger, better-educated and more active part of the population is ready to break the law: these people are under constant pressure from the current regime and their interests and rights are least protected. More of them (36.9%) fear the arbitrariness of the authorities, than those, who are law-abiding (28.7%).
The attitude to law is directly related to the attitude to president and his policies. Table 4 shows that the president’s supporters are generally law-abiding: only one third of them could break a law, if it created obstacles to their activities. However, this view is supported by more than 60% of the president’s opponents.

Table 4. Attitude to law, depending on attitude to president, %

The dissatisfaction with the president’s policies, a social crisis, disbelief in law and a widening gap between the needs and the ways to legally satisfy them will facilitate a rise in public disobedience.