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 populist authoritarian nationalism threatens constitutionalism or: Why constitutional resilience is a key issue of our time

The problem with movements and parties spearheaded by “populist” leaders such as Putin, Erdoğan, Orbán, Kaczyński or Trump is not that they happen to embrace more nationally focused policies that metropolitan elites widely condemn as unjust, ineffective or otherwise misguided. Nor is the problem that they embrace a confrontational political style and uncouth rhetoric at odds with the mores of reflexively enlightened society in political capitals across liberal constitutional democracies. Neither of those features would constitute a constitutional threat justifying sustained reflections on constitutional resilience. The problem with electoral successes of populist authoritarian nationalists is that they pose a fundamental threat to liberal constitutional democracy.

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Combining Justice with Power: How to Challenge the Narrative of Democratic Authoritarian Populism

Israel’s Nation-State Law can be seen as an expression of the kind of democratic authoritarian populism that appears to be spreading globally. But it is no time to give up the game and there are examples that show how it is possible to counter the narrative of democratic authoritarian populism.

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Ethnocentric Mambo in Catalonia

Catalonia is a fragile object. As in many other places, history has assembled fragments without completely fusing them, leaving behind scars that remind us of the effort required to join what is diverse. These scars demand special attention because, contrary to societies where the wounds that produced them are old and almost forgotten, in Catalonia many of the wounds were still suppurating just a few decades ago. As they do now. For months, we have been at risk of tearing them open.

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A Constitution of Fear

A new brand of constitutionalism is on the rise in Poland, defined by a „constitution of fear”. Fear is the leitmotif of the constitution-making process defined by suspicion, exclusion, drive for retribution and settling the scores. As such it reflects the main tenets of populist constitutionalism: distrust in the institutions and rejection of the liberal status quo and culture of self-constraints.

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Populism and the Turkish Constitutional Court: the Game Broker, the Populist and the Popular

Populist strategies have for some time been an integral part of Turkish political life employed dominantly by the right wing political parties.1)For populism as a discursive strategy in Turkey see Zafer Toprak, “Populism ve Türkiye’deki Boyutları”, Tarih ve Demokrasi (Istanbul: Cem Yayınevi, 1992), pp. 41-62; Reşat Kasaba, “Populism and Democracy in Turkey, 1946-1961”, Rules and […]

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On the Slippery Slope to a ,People’s Court'

Writes Matej Avbelj in High time for popular constitutionalism!, ‘The majority in our societies seems to be increasingly disconnected with the liberal values that especially the legal academia, but also the ruling political class – at least on a declaratory level – have taken for granted…’ Living as I do in the country in which one sees an increasing distaste for the European Convention of Human Rights and regular media criticism of the ‘unelected judges’ in Strasbourg – and that despite the fact that the judges of the Court are, in fact, elected from a slate of three by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe – I cannot help wondering whether the disconnect is anything very new.

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Enemies of the People?

"Enemies of the People": that is, according to the Daily Mail, what the High Court judges are. Joseph Stalin would have been wildly amused by this way of putting things… Leaving aside such 30s reminiscences, it seems to me too simple to reduce this phenomenon solely to the disgracefulness of the British boulevard press and Tory backbenchers. There is something more fundamental going on. Not only in the United Kingdom. But in the entire Western democratic constitutional space.

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Populists chairing the European Commission and Parliament

No, the title of this post does not refer to a dystopia to come after the next European elections in 2019. It refers to the two presidents of today – Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schulz. Now why can they be seen as populists in some plausible way? In my view, this is because of the way in which they see politics and the role of the “people” in it.

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Das Grundgesetz der Beatrix von Storch

Eine Menge Presse haben die beiden AfD-Vize Beatrix von Storch und Alexander Gauland für ihre "Islam-und-Grundgesetz-geht-nicht-zusammen"-Äußerungen bekommen. Es ist natürlich von scharfer Ironie, dass die beiden AfDler den Islam ausgerechnet zu einem Dokument in Gegnerschaft stellen, das uns Respekt vor der Religionsfreiheit befiehlt. Mir scheint aber, dass man es damit nicht bewenden lassen kann zu sagen, lest doch mal einfach mal Artikel 4. Mir scheint, von Storch und Gauland haben mit ihrer Invokation des Grundgesetzes etwas ganz anderes, etwas viel Fundamentaleres im Sinn als bloß an der Religionsfreiheit herumzufummeln.

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