Proportionality, Exception, and Transformation in Times of Pandemics: Expanding the Spectrum of Constitutional Relevance

As the literature on authoritarian constitutionalism and democratic decay has repeatedly remarked, there are several factors that distinguish the wave of neo-authoritarianism that currently travels the world from earlier instantiations of the genre. One of them is the fact that contemporary neo-authoritarians do not outlaw the opposition, cancel elections, shut down the media, or violently repress social discontent, but rather use softer and often legally admissible ways of advancing their agenda – generating patterns of gradual but sustained and ever deeper democratic erosion, instead of sudden collapse. A second distinguishing factor is that the current authoritarian wave affects as much “new” democracies that have experienced rule-of-law and democratic-quality problems for long, as prestigious constitutional democracies we considered to be exceedingly consolidated. There is a sort of unexpected levelling-down, “equalization-in-the-bad” component to current developments. Continue reading

The Age of Constitutional Barbarism

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

Can the European Union Save the Independent Judges?

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

The end of “the West” and the future of Global Constitutionalism

1. The collapse of “the West”?

A century after the Russian Revolution of 1917 and more than 25 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the “Eastern Block”, we may now to be witnessing the collapse of the American Republic and the Western order it created and led after WWII. Whether NATO, the EU and the string of alliances the United States has built across Asia will continue to exist in three or five years is by no means a foregone conclusion, but it has become an open question. Continue reading

Traits of Authoritarianism in Global Governance

The concept of global governance is commonly associated with the redeeming virtue of a pluralization of political authority beyond the nation state which has gained prominence in the second half of the 20th century. International law is cheered for imposing limits on the otherwise unfettered state voluntarism for which the ‘Westphalian’ state system has been notorious. Continue reading