Research Law

The Constitutional Path to Illiberal Democracy

, by Claudio Todesco
In many parts of the world we see a democratic regression that tends to stifle civil rights. Justin Frosini talks about it in a study on the countries of Central Asia

Is illiberal democracy a contradiction in terms? This is the problem addressed by constitutionalists from countries throughout the world that started a research group on "Constitutionalism in Illiberal Democracies" promoted by the International Association of Constitutional Law (IACL).

"The wave of democratization that swept the world has stopped", says Justin Frosini, Associate professor of Comparative Public Law and member of the IACL research group. "Fifteen years ago, liberal democracy was conquering the world, or so it seemed. We thought that we reached the end of history, to quote Francis Fukuyama. The enthusiasm was soon replaced by the concern over the phenomenon of democratic regression. Countries once considered to be consolidated democracies were in crisis. The Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has publicity declared he would like to turn the country into an illiberal democracy".

Perfectly legal constitutional amendments turn pluralist democracies into illiberal democracies that restrict the enjoyment of civil and political rights. It happens all over the world and therefore the IACL project is divided into groups that focus on geographic and thematic subjects. The project debuted in April 2016 with a workshop at Bocconi on "Constitutionalism in Illiberal Democracies". Seminars have been held in Bologna, Padua, Buenos Aires.

The latest academic publication is the special issue of Central Asia Survey on Pseudo-Constitutionalism in Central Asia: Curse or Cure?. Professor Frosini has contributed with a paper on constitutional preambles in Central Asia. "They express the principles of liberal democracies, but the constitutional bodies that may guarantee the balance of powers do not actually perform the functions assigned to them. This is a form of pseudo-constitutionalism that hides its true nature under the constitution".

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