Belarus is a land-locked country in Eastern Europe bordering Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Russia and Ukraine. In 2000 the population of Belarus was approximately 10.03 million. Consistent with demographic chnage across the region the population is expected to decline to 8.95 million by 2025. The infant mortality rate in Belarus in 2000 is 17 per 1000, the same as it is in Latvia and Ukraine. By comparison, the infant mortality rate in Russia is 18 per 1000, in Estonia, Lithuania and Poland it is 8, in the U.S. it is 7, in France and Germany it is 4, and in Japan it is 3.
In 1991, Belarus became an independent entity from the Soviet Union. Since gaining independence, the struggle for democracy has not been easy for the Belarusian people. The 1991 Belarusian Consitution formally established a presidential system with three branches of government: the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. Both the executive and legislative branches of the Belarusian government are popularly elected by the people. As is true in other presidnetial systems, formal power is not evenly distributed across the three branches of government. Belarus is often defined as a unitary presidential republic.
The dictatorial President of Belarus is Alexander Lukashenko. Upon taking office in 1994, Lukashenko expanded the powers of the executive branch. In a referendum in 1996, he delegated such powers to himself as: an extended term, the ability to disband the parliament, and censorship of the media. Upon disbanding parliament he replaced the peoples’ elected representatives with representatives of his own choosing, making the legislative branch no longer popularly elected, limiting furthermore the power of the people. Not only does Lukanshenko take everyday rights away from the people of Belarus but he also limits their economic success. Lukashenko has refused to privatize many of the businesses that the state has controlled since the Soviet Union. He also makes it extremely difficult for small business owners to prosper with tough restrictions. This in return limits the economic success of Belarus and curbs the improvement of the Belarusian way of life. Lukashenko has also been accused of a number of atrocities ranging from human rights violations, to selling weapons to such countries as Iran, Iraq, and Sudan.
With a president such as Lukashenko, how will the Belarusian people ever be able to recover from communism to live a democratic life? In legislation passed on December 17, 2005 on a vote of 104 to 0, the lower house of the Belarussian parliament set Match 19, 2006 as the dayte for the next presidential election. Lukashenko succeeded in having the two term limit for the presidency eliminated in a 2004 referendum and will run for a third term as president in 2006. Source: n.a. "Date Set for Belarus Election Showdown." Agence France Presse. December 17, 2005.
As expected, Lukashenko rigged the 2006 election, then used hired goons to break up the ensuing street protests in Minsk.
New legislation passed in 2005 helped build the legal wall around Belarus a little higher. A new law that took effect in April 2005 imposed citizenship requirements for models and modelling agencies. In what seems like a throwback to the stupidities of national communism, models appearing in advertisements in Belarus must now be Belarussian. Source: "French Faces, Farewell: Belarus Has Beauties of its Own." The New York Times. December 19, 2005.
On December 14, 2005 the lower house of the parliament passed a law on a vote of 101 to 1 that promoted dating or matched potential suitors via the Internet. Students from Belarus were also required to receive written permission from the country's Ministry of Education to study abroad if the length of stay is longer than 30 days and foreign companies seeking to hire Belarusian students for summer jobs also would need approval from the same ministry. Source: n.a. "New Belarus Law Restricts Online Dating." Associated Press. December 16, 2005.