According to Konstantin Mikhel, Managing Partner at Vlasova Mikhel & Partners, sanctions-burdened Belarus is slowly preparing for the change of its constitution. In addition, Mikhel reports that two sets of "pertinent amendments" have been passed recently – one to Company Law and the other to Advocacy Law.
“The tension in society was recognized by both the government and the people,“ Mikhel says and reports that Belarus is on its way to a new constitution. He explains that there are several versions of the supreme law, yet, none of them are official. “One draft, published by the opposition, plans to make Belarus a parliamentary republic with a mostly ceremonial president like in Germany, Poland, or Lithuania, and would see some other presidential prerogatives abolished,” says Mikhel and explains that such a solution would be quite different to the status quo.
Another draft was announced by the Presidential Constitutional Commission, according to Mikhel. “This unofficial and, most likely, not final version keeps the presidential republic with broad presidential power, but, at the same time, unlike in the current constitution, it would make an act issued by parliament stronger than a presidential decree,“ Mikhel details. “The draft also entails the creation of a new state body, the Belarusian People’s Council, which would have authority over both the parliament and the president,” he says and adds that such a body is reminiscent of the Soviet or Chinese system, which speaks volumes of its credibility. According to Mikhel, the president also announced that he will be presenting his draft in the autumn of 2021, with the referendum planned for no later than February 2022. “It’s unlikely that the opposition's draft will be presented at the referendum together with the government’s draft,” Mikhel reports.
The political instability brought international sanctions upon Belarus, and Mikhel acknowledges that, as a result, foreign investors have grown reluctant to invest in the country. The M&A sector suffered as a result. However, despite the lack of FDIs, some parts of the economy are doing quite well, according to Mikhel. “We increased exports of food, wood, and oil products,” he says. There are a number of real estate projects planned for implementation, Mikhel reports, and points to a USD 4 billion hotel, office, and residential project that a UAE investor plans to develop in Minsk.
Moving on to the matter of legislation, Mikhel reports that two sets of amendments have been passed recently. The first one introduced an "option program" in the Company Law, under which a company may issue shares to its management and employees as a part of their remuneration, Mikhel details. The second set of amendments pertains to the Advocacy Law. According to Mikhel, the amendments liquidated the once independent Advocacy Bureau and determined that advocacy activities may only be performed as a legal consultancy within the Bar Association. In addition, the law still retains the distinction between advocates and licensed lawyers, with only the former being able to represent clients in courts, while lawyers can only practice on business matters.