Fight Fire with Fire – a Plea for EU Information Campaigns in Hungarian and Polish

In the current crisis of democracy in the EU, we should not put too much pressure on the judiciary to fix the rule of law and democracy. Neither should we put too much hope for positive developments on (European) party politics. Rather I suggest that the EU should start speaking directly to the electorate via EU information campaigns in Hungarian and Polish. The 2019 European Parliament elections might provide an adequate framework for such campaigns.

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Of Red Lines and Red Herring: The EPP’s Delusions about Restraining Orbán

This post will offer an overview of the main EPP’s ‘red lines’ since the EPP leadership first demanded from Prime Minister Orbán that he immediately comply with EU laws and EPP values nearly two years ago, in April 2017. We will show that, contrary to Weber’s claims about EPP values being non-negotiable, Orbán has repeatedly crossed the EPP’s supposed red-lines with impunity. And rather than being restrained by the EPP, Orbán has sought to transform it.

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Stop Soros Law Left on the Books – The Return of the “Red Tail”?

On 28 February, Hungary’s Constitutional Court found the so-called Stop Soros legislative package constitutional. Shocking as it may seem at first glance, this case reminds us how difficult it is to evaluate the judgments of a constitutional court operating in an illiberal political regime.

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An Advanced Course in Court Packing: Hungary’s New Law on Administrative Courts

The design and establishment of the new Hungarian administrative judiciary provides insight into a new style of engineering illiberal constitutional democracy through dialogue with European constitutional actors. It is not simply the case that Hungary is undertaking judicial reform while the Article 7 TEU process is on its way. Rather, a new phase of judicial reform is passed under European supervision despite the clear threat it presents for the rule of law.

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The Democratic Backsliding and the European constitutional design in error. When will HOW meet WHY?

When is the constitutional design of any (domestic, international, supranational) polity in error? On the most general level such critical juncture obtains when polity’s founding document (treaty, convention, constitution) protects against the dangers that no longer exist or does not protect against the dangers that were not contemplated by the Founders. While discussion of the evolution of human rights and international actors in response to social change (LGBT, euthanasia, abortion) is well documented, such evolution with regard to political change (transition from one sort of government to another) is less well documented. Constitutions not only constitute but should also protect against de-constitution. For supranational legal order to avoid a deadlock of „being in error” in the above sense, the systemic threats coming from within the polity’s component parts must be recognised and constitutional design be changed accordingly.

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How can a democratic constitution survive an autocratic majority?

Can the democratic constitutions of Hungary and Poland survive an autocratic majority? Hardly. Hungary and Poland seem to be lost for liberal and democratic constitutionalism. At least for the time being, the next question is how democratic constitutionalism can prevent an autocratic majority. The task is to make it difficult for an autocratic parliamentary majority to capture the institutions of critique and control of government and to undermine separation of powers.

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No Case for Legal Interventionism: Defending Democracy Through Protecting Pluralism and Parliamentarism

Being a democrat means accepting that the law is not a very durable sword against authoritarianism. Democratic law bends and submits to the majority. When push comes to shove, it lacks the capacity to defy anti-democratic, authoritarian majorities. Of course, this does not mean that legal mechanisms and instruments are meaningless in this context. They can work against and impede the rise of anti-pluralist, illiberal and anti-democratic political movements. But it is important to acknowledge that legal interventions and prohibitive measures that target anti-liberal, anti-democratic political platforms also pose risks. They may undermine what they are supposed to protect: a free and egalitarian political process that is based on open political competition, pluralism and a free public discourse.

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Constitutional Resilience to Populism: Four Theses

Let us make a plea for modesty. Constitutional democrats need to be clear-eyed and realistic about what good constitutional design can do. We need to steer a middle course between constitutional idealism and nihilism. Constitutional idealists argue that thoughtful and intelligent constitutional design can largely eliminate the risk posed by populism; constitutional nihilists respond by arguing that there is little, if anything, that constitutional design can do in the face of the populist challenge that secures victory at the ballot box and captures the state from within.

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How to Abolish Democracy: Electoral System, Party Regulation and Opposition Rights in Hungary and Poland

When it comes to Poland and Hungary, everyone is talking about the judiciary, about the independence of the courts, about the rule of law. But hardly anyone talks about parliaments. Yet they are at the heart of our democracies. And they are no less at risk. This became clear in the third panel of our workshop, which dealt with the electoral system, party regulation and opposition rights in Hungary and Poland. What may sound technical at first glance are surprisingly effective instruments in the hands of autocrats. It is precisely with these instruments that the governments of both countries have set the course for a “democracy” that primarily benefits the ruling parties and undermines political plurality.

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