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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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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Indian Democracy at a Crossroads

The Indian Supreme Court’s ruling on LGBTQ rights signals a court willing to play an unabashedly partisan role in the ongoing battle over the idea of India. The Indian Supreme Court, however, remains a complicated, polyvocal, court, and cannot be attributed any coherent ideological or jurisprudential worldview. This, at a time when the defining role of inclusive pluralism to India’s constitutional identity is at stake and majoritarian nationalism is waging a spirited battle, not just for continued political relevance but for reshaping the very idea of India.

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Living under the unconstitutional capture and hoping for the constitutional recapture

After the unconstitutional capture of the Constitutional Tribunal in Poland, ordinary courts will have to step in to provide constitutional review. Polish judges are faced with the most fundamental challenge since 1989. Are they ready to be constitutional judges in times of constitutional emergency?

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Poland and the European Commission, Part I: A Dialogue of the Deaf?

On 21 December 2016, the European Commission adopted an additional Recommendation regarding the rule of law in Poland. Rather than starting the Article 7 sanctioning process, the Commission merely reiterated its old demands, added some new concerns and again held out the threat of Article 7 while apparently moving no closer to actually starting a sanctioning process. It is not that the Commission was unaware of what was happening in Poland. In December, the Commission stood by and watched the Polish government capture the Constitutional Tribunal. The new Recommendation indicates that the Commission simply chose not to act to head off the final stages of the Tribunal’s demise.

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Italian Constitutional Referendum: Voting for Structural Reform or Constitutional Transformation?

As the distance between political elites and the population in Europe increases, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s plans of constitutional reform further impoverish political representation in Italy – both with respect to input and output of the process. That is why the opponents of the reform are gaining ever more traction among Italian voters and could in the end prevail.

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