How to Save a Constitutional Democracy: a Comment by SUJIT CHOUDHRY

Tom Ginsburg and Aziz Huq’s "How to Save a Constitutional Democracy" is a terrific book. In this comment, I address three issues: the important moment the book marks on the value of the comparative method to the study of American constitutionalism; the insights offered by this method to the risk of democratic erosion in the United States and how those risks might be mitigated; and the need to give greater weight than Ginsburg and Huq do to the role of federalism to counter democratic erosion.

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Laws, Conventions, and Fake Constitutions

Does pure majoritarian decision making have intrinsic value or offer better consequences for society? The case of Hungary is not isolated but is an integral part of a global phenomenon. In contrast with earlier waves of democratization that spread across the globe, more recent tendencies have led to the disintegration of democracies. Not only Hungary and Poland (two EU Member States), but also Russia (probably the first regime of this kind), and many other countries from Azerbaijan to Venezuela epitomize this phenomenon, in which the country in question adopts — apparently in a democratic manner — a legal transformation that moves it ever further from, rather than toward, democratic principles. Given that today democracy counts solely as a legitimate constitutional system, the most salient new feature is that authoritarianism must play at being democracy.

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The CEU Leaves – Hungarian Students are Left in the Lurch

For 27 years Central European University has operated in Hungary’s capital. That era has come to an end. The forced move of the CEU to Vienna signals to Hungarians and other citizens in illiberal democracies that vulnerability is their future. They are left to the wayside by the international community, abandoned by the European Union, and left questioning who will ever defend liberal-democratic values in practice.

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A Crisis Made in Italy

The recent crisis surrounding the Italian President’s refusal to appoint a Finance Minister considered likely to pursue an agenda of ‘Italexit’ has sparked a great deal of constitutional commentary. Two particular threads of opinion are identified here and some doubts cast about them. On the one hand, there are those who consider legitimate the President’s discretionary use of power, partly in light of the pressure that would be brought to bear by the financial markets should Italy opt for exiting the single currency. On the other hand, there are those who doubt its wisdom, and offer a broader indictment of the pressure brought to bear on the Italian government as a result of being in an overly rigid Eurozone. This gets closer to diagnosing the condition, but in its ambiguity about the pressure point, fails to underscore that this is essentially a crisis made in Italy, and, if at all, to be resolved there, including a full and frank debate about membership of the single currency and even the European Union.

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The Authoritarian Regime Survival Guide

This text was published in social media in January 2017 in a series of improvised, spontaneous tweets, which reached 3 million views within one month. Their common element was their trademark signature, “- With love, your Eastern European friends”, and the accompanying hashtag #LearnFromEurope. Excerpts and summaries were published by various on-line media, but this is the first time it is published as a whole.

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Legally sophisticated authoritarians: the Hungarian Lex CEU

Contemporary authoritarian leaders understand that in a globalized world the more brutal forms of intimidation are best replaced with more subtle forms of coercion. Therefore, they work in a more ambiguous spectrum that exists between democracy and authoritarianism, and from a distance, many of them look almost democratic. They take advantage of formalistic legal arguments against their enemies. Similarly, the new draft law of the Hungarian government also uses legal tricks to force the Central European University to cease operation in Budapest.

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Presidentialism à la Turka or what? The (missing) logic behind the constitutional amendments

Erdoğan’s efforts to inscribe his understanding of presidential domination into the Turkish constitution should not be mistaken for a systematic turn towards a presidential model of government. The inbuilt inconsistencies of the reform may well develop some serious unintended side effects causing political deadlock and institutional breakdown in the long run.

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