Constitutional democracy in the time of elected authoritarians

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In a recent article in the International Journal of Constitutional Law, Wojciech Sadurski reflects upon the rise of autocracies characterised by electoral pedigree and consider some consequences of these developments.

He draws two lessons from the authoritarian turn in CEE, one in relation to the relative insignificance of formal constitutional design, the other on the end of the “transition paradigm”, and concludes that:

Pessimism is warranted, in particular, for populist systems that have survived more than one consecutive electoral term, such as Poland and Hungary, but also, for instance, Venezuela. It is not surprising that the odds are that such entrenched populisms will tend toward the consolidation of autocracy. This is intuitively plausible. The populist officials in power have many mechanisms with which to constantly tilt the playing field in their favor. They can co-opt more and more people to their side by the politics of graft, corruption, spoils, and patronage; they use devices of state or state-friendly propaganda to strengthen the culture of populism in the minds of electors; and, perhaps most importantly, the passage of time erodes society’s collective memories of democratic norms and practices.

Wojciech Sadurski

This issue of the journal is presently available at no charge:

Read the full article

Should you have access, see also Wojciech’s writings on:

‘Constitutional Design: Lessons from Poland’s Democratic Backsliding’ (2020) 6 Constitutional Studies 59

‘Populism and Human Rights in Poland’ in Gerald L. Nauman Human Rights in a Time of Populism: Challenges and Responses (Cambridge University Press, 2020)