Imitating Democracy

Russia is moving fast with its constitutional reform. On 10 March, the State Duma supported an amendment, which, if it enters into force, will allow Putin to participate in the presidential elections 2024. Although the amendment is constitutionally questionable – substantively as well as procedurally – Russia’s Constitutional Court is likely to give its approval.

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Context Matters

On February 9th, the Armenian parliament authorized a referendum that would allow the Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, to remove seven of the current nine justices from the Constitutional Court. Pashinyan has called the decisions of the Court a “threat to democracy”. On its face, this seems like yet another example of a populist leader trying to use a referendum to increase his power. Examining the context of the situation in Armenia, however, paints a different picture.

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Doch noch ein Verfassungs­referendum in Italien

Die Verkleinerung des italienischen Parlaments wurde im vergangen Oktober beschlossen, jedoch haben sich knapp vor Ablauf der Frist genügend Parlamentarier zusammengeschlossen, um die Entscheidung doch dem Wahlvolk durch ein Verfassungsreferendum zu überlassen. Die traditionelle Scheu der italienischen Wähler vor Verfassungsänderungen dürfte diesmal durch eine Annahme dieses „Reförmchens“ höchstwahrscheinlich überwunden werden. Nichtdestotrotz bestätigt das Vorgehen die Richtigkeit einer Verfassungsbestimmung, die für konstitutionelle Novellierungen einen breiten Konsens vorsieht, damit die Verfassung nicht Spielball der Tagespolitik wird.

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The People Have Voted, Now Let the People Speak

The Brexit stalemate is unlikely to wither. In a smart spin, distracting from the unlawfulness of the Parliament shutdown, the blame for not delivering Brexit is now put on the Parliament. The Parliament and “the establishment” are pitted against the will of the people. Since the 2016 referendum, however, provided for no clear procedural or substantive mandate, no form of Brexit, including remain, can claim its legitimacy based on the “will of the people” unless there is a second referendum.

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Why Referendums in Ireland Work Better than in the UK

Former UK prime minister Gordon Brown has recommended the Irish innovation of the citizens’ assembly to inform and guide public opinion. Theresa May, too, included a glancing reference to the notion in her recent House of Commons speech. They are mistaken, though, if they believe that this formula has much to offer in the UK.

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Bumps on the Roadmap towards the Republic of Northern Macedonia?

Greece and the Republic of Macedonia are one step closer to re-naming R. Macedonia into the “Republic of Northern Macedonia” or “Republic of Upper Macedonia”. On 28 May 2018, the Foreign Ministers of both countries have announced significant progress towards the bilateral treaty regarding the name issue. At the same time, a road map for the name change of the Republic of Macedonia was announced that includes a binding referendum by the Macedonian people. But what happens if the treaty is already signed and binding, and the people of Macedonia vote against the name change in the referendum?

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The Kurdistan Independence Referendum and Constitutional Self-Determination

Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) held a non-binding independence referendum on 25 September 2017. Voters were asked: ‘Do you want the Kurdistan Region and the Kurdistani areas outside the region’s administration to become an independent state?’ Voting occurred in Kirkuk and the Kurdish-controlled parts of other territories in northern Iraq whose disputed status is recognized in the Iraqi constitution. In retrospect, Kurdish leaders seem to have overreached politically, as the Iraqi armed forces and allied militias have in recent days seized Kirkuk Governorate from Kurdish control. But was it legal overreach?

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Playing the Referendum Game in Northern Italy

Three weeks after Catalonia, two of Italy’s wealthiest regions are going to the polls over similar issues related to autonomy. On Sunday, the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto will vote on a one-question query on whether to demand greater autonomy from Rome. Despite their apparent simplicity, both questions are formulated in such a way as to be misleading. Few months before the national election, the referendum may be considered as a test for Northern League, or even a rehearsal in view of a political campaign based on the promise of a greater return on taxes.

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