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

Donald Trump as Global Constitutional Breaching Experiment

During the nearly 24 months since the inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States of America, it has become commonplace to observe that the actions of this President are ‘not normal’. Examples of his abnormal behaviour are numerous, but for a quick refresher consider the following (very incomplete) list. Calling the director of the National Parks Service to find photos of the inauguration to disprove media claims that President Obama’s inauguration had a larger audience. Launching an investigation into voter fraud over the election he won, without any actual evidence of voter fraud. Hanging up on the Australian Prime Minister because he did not like a pre-existing refugee agreement between the US and Australia. Pressuring the director of the FBI to stop investigating Michael Flynn for his undisclosed dealings with Russia and Turkey. Banning major media outlets from White House press briefings because he did not like the coverage he received from these organisations. Accusing President Obama Continue reading

Wie sich Autorität rechtfertigt: Expertise und demokratische Mehrheiten haben nur begrenzte normative Kraft

Weit verbreitet ist zurzeit das Argument, liberale Demokratien befänden sich in einer Autoritätskrise. Was aber ist damit gemeint? Ganz grundsätzlich meint eine solche Krise, dass Autoritätsbeziehungen erodieren. Das heißt, autoritative Behauptungen werden von ihren Adressaten nicht mehr als bindend anerkannt. Dies ist der Fall, wenn etablierte Rechtfertigungen des Autoritätsanspruchs versagen oder infrage gestellt werden. Die derzeitige Autoritätskrise kann als eine solche verstanden werden, in zweifacher Hinsicht: als eine Krise der Autorität von Experten und als Krise einer spezifischen Form demokratischer Autorität, Continue reading

Reversing the Decline of Constitutional Democracy in Europe

Constitutional democracy is a system of government in which all powers are exercised under a constitution which grows out and is dedicated to the protection of equal human dignity. The latter requires that each and every individual is recognized an equal right to self-fulfilment within the scope of the same right recognized and exercised by others. By making equal human dignity a point of departure as well as the ultimate objective of its functioning, a polity characterized as a constitutional democracy is necessarily permeated by pluralism. Continue reading

Impeaching Remnants of the Authoritarian Past: A Constitutional Moment in South Korea

Last Friday, effective March 10 at exactly 11:21 a.m., the sitting President Park Geun-hye was removed from her office by a unanimous decision of the South Korean Constitutional Court. With public life coming to a standstill as eyes focused on TV and internet live broadcasting, the acting Chief Justice delivered the court decision. The conclusion of the constitutional impeachment procedure marked the climax of a transformative ongoing constitutional moment in South Korea. 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