Why Do We Need International Legal Standards for Constitutional Referendums?

Important substantive and institutional guarantees ensure the democratic quality of the general elections. In the case of a referendum these substantive and procedural guarantees are almost completely missing. Only international soft law deals with the question of the democratic quality of the referendum. Recent experience with Turkey, Hungary and other places show that this needs to change.

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How dangerous is Emmanuel Macron – really?

To what extent does Emmanuel Macron represent a risk for civil liberties in France? Against this background of looming one-party hegemony and executive overreach, especially in security matters, the Conseil constitutionnel, the French Constitutional Council, found it wise to remind the government of the limits of its police powers.

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New Constitutional Amendment Proposal in Turkey: A Threat to Pluralistic Democracy!

Turkey will hold a referendum on a fundamental constitutional reform, probably in April. The designed political regime is neither parliamentarism nor presidentialism. Although the government calls the new political regime as a “Turkish type of presidentialism” with a populist discourse; in reality, the new regime will bring a kind of “delegative democracy”, which is seen usually in the South American, sub-Saharan African and in central Asian countries.

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The Turkish Constitutional Court under the Amended Turkish Constitution

In March 2016, the Turkish Constitutional Court (TCC) ruled that the rights of the Turkish journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül had been violated, leading to their release from prison after three months. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan responded by criticizing the TCC sharply, questioning its existence and legitimacy. This had not been the first time over the last years, that the Court had been attacked. The constitutional amendments, that will be put to referendum in April 2017, seemed to be a golden opportunity to change the composition and cut back the broad competences of the TCC. Did the AKP-led Parliamentary Constitutional Committee seize this opportunity?

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Between the Scylla of Terrorism and the Charybdis of the Police State: on the new French Anti-Terrorist Legislation

One month ago, France has enacted a new anti-terror law to end the state of emergency that had been in place since the terror attacks of Nov 15 2015. The basic purpose of the law is quite clearly to empower the executive (police and prosecution services) with investigative tools formerly reserved to the judiciary. Whether such a transfer of powers is justified or not, the fact is that the “country of human rights” actually now has today the most authoritarian anti-terrorist legislation in the European Union.

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Hungary’s Struggle: In a Permanent State of Exception

The Hungarian government has called for a referendum on EU relocation quota plan and declared a “nationwide migrant crisis”. The justification given by the government for these measures was the “massive immigration” which “endangers the jobs of Hungarians and redraws Hungary’s cultural and religious identity”. The argument went that, due to a “migrant crisis” the Hungarian government needed a greater room for maneuvre, not limited by constitutional constraints, in order to manage the crisis. This argument presupposes that, as a result of the migrant crisis, Hungary has ended up in a state of exception, when constitutional guarantees have to be limited or suspended; essential powers have to be concentrated in the hands of the prime minister, until the crisis is overcome.

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Frankreich im Ausnahmezustand: Eine Verfassungsänderung à la française

Ein verfrühtes Weihnachtsgeschenk? Am 23. Dezember 2015 legte der französische Ministerrat den Vorschlag für die Aufnahme zweier neuer Artikel in die Verfassung vor. Sorgen bereitet vor allem die Konstitutionalisierung der Notstandsbefugnisse der Exekutive, die künftig in der Verfassung geregelt sein sollen. Insbesondere die weitreichenden polizeilichen Befugnisse führen zu einer Machtverschiebung zugunsten der Exekutive und stellen ein Einfallstor für schwerwiegende Beschränkungen von Rechtsstaatlichkeit und Grundrechten dar. Durch die Konstitutionalisierung des Notstands wird die (verfassungs-)gerichtliche Überprüfbarkeit der Maßnahmen deutlich eingeschränkt.

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L’état d’urgence in the wake of the Paris attacks and its judicial aftermath

With the shock of the Paris attacks still fresh, further images started to flood the media in their immediate aftermath: Soldiers were not only seen boarding Rafale fighter jets but also patrolling the streets in France and Belgium, police raids were and are still conducted day and night throughout France, numerous arrests were made and even more people set under house arrest. Those internal executive measures in France are based on the déclaration de l’état d’urgence (in parts already discussed here). Now that the situation slightly calmed down, but with the state of emergency still enacted, the first administrative court decisions on those measures are in, deeming the police behavior just on all points.

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Maßnahmen gegen den Terror: Frankreich nach den Anschlägen in Paris

Anfang letzter Woche hat der französische Präsident François Hollande vor dem versammelten Parlament seine Antwort auf die Anschläge in Paris formuliert. Einerseits soll der verhängte Ausnahmezustand um drei Monate verlängert und maßgeblich verschärft werden. Das Parlament hat ein entsprechendes Gesetz bereits angenommen. Andererseits beabsichtigt Hollande die Verfassung zu ändern, um einer „neuen Art von Krieg“ gerecht werden zu können. Ziel sei es, ein „régime civil d’état de crise“ zu schaffen, welches die nationale Sicherheit garantieren könne, ohne darüber hinaus die libertés publiques unnötig einschränken zu müssen. Was hat Frankreich genau vor, und was steht verfassungsrechtlich auf dem Spiel?

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