Posts Tagged

Constitution

On 15 January, President Vladimir Putin called for a “greater balance between the branches of power” as he announced significant changes to the Russian constitution. On the same day, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his cabinet resigned and were quickly replaced. The new Prime Minister, Mikhail Mishustin, was a relatively unknown figure in Russia until recently, having previously spearheaded digital modernization efforts as head of the Federal Tax Service.  The surprise changes are seen as preparation for the Putin’s departure from the presidency in 2024 given current constitutional restrictions, which prevent him from being president more than two consecutive terms. The proposed constitutional reforms would not facilitate his return to the post in the future, however, but instead propose to weaken the presidency …

Five years after Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation in Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia ignited the Arab Spring. Yet while it inspired hope for democratic transition across the Middle East and North Africa, the region continues to be embroiled in civil war, terrorist networks, and crises of political legitimacy. In Syria and Bahrain, dictators used violence to thwart protests, leading to a prolonged civil war in Syria. In Yemen, despite the dictator’s negotiated transfer of power, rival sectarians are vying for power. In Tunisia and Egypt, dictators stepped down without much bloodshed. Lastly, in Libya, rebels overthrew the dictator with foreign military aid, but soon succumbed to factional warfare. This article will explore the interlude of democratic or semi-democratic politics in Tunisia, Egypt and …

English devolution has emerged as a prominent feature of the 2015 general election campaign for a number of reasons. One is the ongoing process of devolution that has been taking place across the UK, with the formation of the assemblies for Northern Ireland and Wales, and the Scottish parliament. Another is the aftershock of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. Throughout this time, England has also solidified as a distinct national political community. Research indicates that over the past decade or so we have witnessed the progressive “Anglicisation” of the Westminster-based unionist parties. This means that Labour, the Conservatives, and the Liberal Democrats have all become more focused on England, in their political outlook. But up until now, these parties have sought to avoid the complications and risks of large-scale internal organisational reform in England. They have lacked the appropriate party structures, leadership or explicit policy agendas to properly engage with the complex set of “English Questions”, which have emerged in a post-devolution UK.

If we are in a constitutional moment, it is time that ‘We the people’ have a right to settle what happens. A Constitutional Convention (CC) is one way to give the people this leading role. A CC is unlikely to refound the British state if it is set up to function as, in effect, an advisory council to the UK Parliament on a relatively narrow range of issues. The UK is in what the lawyer and political philosopher Bruce Ackerman would call a ‘constitutional moment’. There are, obviously, deep and urgent questions about the future of the Union and ‘devolution’. There are related questions about the second chamber of Parliament and the election itself is likely to raise again questions over the voting system. …

One of the central problems with studying the politics of constitutional change in the UK is that the public does not care about the constitution. Unsurprisingly, constitutional reform does not figure prominently in the party manifestos for the May general election. That does not mean that these documents tell us nothing at all: they show that parties stick with their old policies; that the Conservatives seem to avoid any explicit reference to the constitution; and that all political parties appear to be willing to use the constitution to their own advantage. In this blog post, I distil some of the constitutional issues in the party manifestos of the three largest parties in Westminster in the last parliament: the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats (if there’s time, I will do another post on the smaller parties’ proposals). I define ‘constitutional’ issues as distinct from ‘distributional’ ones, which involve reallocation of resources (and the regulation of behaviour). Constitutional issues are about how decisions are made, not about the outcomes themselves, and should be neutral between, say, more or less progressive (or conservative) substantive policies.