In 2021, Germany faces important general elections both at the state and the federal level. Holding elections in the middle of a pandemic is challenging. Organizing free and fair elections is even more so. But when is the election free and fair? This piece presents the answers given by the European Convention on Human Rights (Convention) and its authoritative interpreter, the European Court of Human Rights (Court). It devotes special attention to Article 3 Protocol 1 of the Convention, which stipulates that ‘The High Contracting Parties undertake to hold free elections at reasonable intervals by secret ballot, under conditions which will ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the legislature.’
2020 is a special year for Europe: it marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the European Convention on Human Rights, which has played an essential role in stabilizing democracies in post-war and post-cold war Europe. Owing to the mandatory jurisdiction enjoyed by the European Court of Human Rights, it has had an enormous impact on the nature of democracy in the member states. Continue reading
On 23 March 1933, an act was adopted in Nazi Germany in response to the “crisis” of the Reichstag fire to enable Hitler to issue decrees independently of the Reichstag and the presidency. Article 48 of the constitution of the Weimar Republic made this act possible. Eighty-seven years later, on 23 March 2020, the so-called ‘Enabling Act’ was put before the Hungarian Parliament. This was drafted under emergency constitutional provisions in Articles 48-54.
In January 2011, we organized a mini conference about the Hungarian constitutional transformation at Humboldt University. We described the chain of events, from the landslide victory of the then-opposition party, Fidesz, to a series of drastic constitutional revisions. In our presentations, we called the transformation a constitutional crisis and we argued that the constitutional revisions did not meet the democratic constitutional standards. Continue reading
By the time of the “big bang” accession in 2004, when ten new member states entered the European Union, it seemed that the fate of East-Central Europe was settled. From that time forward, these states were certified as democracies in good standing. But before the first decade was out on the accession, it became painfully clear that a consolidated democracy could come unraveled. Hungary’s constitutional system began imploding shortly after 2010 and in 2015 Poland began a short, sharp slide toward autocracy. In Hungary and Poland, parties with autocratically inclined leaders were voted into power. Both Viktor Orbán and Jarosław Kaczyński lied about their revolutionary ambitions before they were elected. Once in office, both began attacking judiciaries which were poised to hold them to account under the democratic constitutions they inherited. Continue reading