Constitutional Change

Dr. Alkmini Fotiadou, Centre For European Constitutional Law. Woke up this morning to find out I must vote on Sunday on the «Reforms for the completion of the Current Program and Beyond» and on the «Preliminary Debt sustainability analysis». I googled them but could not find them. A few hours later I found the documents through the Financial Times, while an unofficial translation in Greek appeared later on in the social media. Then, I re-read a bit of constitutional referendums theory. The prerequisites for elite-manipulation are painfully present. The most striking characteristic of the proposed snap referendum is that it is more than a snap referendum. It is a surprise referendum. Lack of time for deliberation is more than apparent. Actually there is no time to even realize what is at stake.
by Thomas Fleiner On June 14, the Swiss voters and the cantons had to decide on three popular initiatives. They adopted with 61% and 18.5 cantons a constitutional proposal of the parliament and government on Article 119 par 2c and rejected with more than 70% two initiatives of the people to change the constitution. One constitutional initiative provided a new competence for the federation with regard to student stipends for bachelor and master studies. The other proposed a new shift of cantonal competences to the federation.
by Anu Mutanen, LL.D., M.Sc. (Admin.), University of Helsinki. Finland used to have one of the most sovereignty-oriented constitutions amongst the Member States of the European Union (EU). However, the EU membership attained in 1995 and the overall Europeanisation and internationalisation of the Finnish constitution during the 1990s contributed to a change towards a non-sovereignist constitution. This was evidenced in the new Constitution adopted in 2000 and, in particular, in the comprehensive constitutional revision realised in 2012. As a result, Section 1 of the Constitution of Finland currently entails both a clause on state sovereignty and a clause on EU membership as follows: ‘Finland is a sovereign republic. [–] Finland is a Member State of the European Union.’ How did this unprecedented constitutional regulation come about?
by Thomas Fleiner On March 8, the Swiss voters and the cantons had to decide on two popular initiatives. They rejected both. The first constitutional peoples’ initiative was rejected by 75% of all voters and without any canton supporting the new constitutional article 116, which would have exempted family-allocations and educational allocations for children from taxes. The second vote concerned a popular initiative, which sought to establish a new federal competence authorising the federal legislature to establish new taxes for not renewable energies.
by Cristina Parau, Associate Member and Research Fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford. The post first appeared on Politics in Spires, in the Great Charter Convention series, hosted in collaboration with Open Democracy, IPPR and the University of Southampton. The first issue concerning a written constitution for Britain is: Where is the demand coming from? Contemporary organised demand for constitutional reform traces back to the late 1970s, yet even before then, isolated intellectuals – ‘a voice crying in the wilderness’ – had tried to make an issue out of a written constitution for Britain that would include a Bill of Rights.
by David Gwynn Morgan. At first sight, who could possibly be against a referendum of all the citizens, as a means of taking the major decisions affecting the polity. A sort of precursor of this institution comes trailing clouds of glory from the Golden Age of Athenian Democracy, when all 100,000 of, at any rate, the free males assembled in the stadium to debate and vote on major collective decisions affecting the polis. And at the present day, the notion of the referendum chimes well with such notions as: citizen participation in government, ‘civil society’, distrust of ‘professional politicians’.
A summary by Dr.Maria Pichou, Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Luxembourg. How can the general public participate in constitution-making and constitution-amending procedures? Are popular initiatives in constitutional change more desirable or feasible in European countries today? The recent Roundtable ‘Constitutional Change and People’, organised by the University of Luxembourg and the International Association of Constitutional Law (Constitution-Making and Constitutional Change Research Group) on December 12th 2014, dealt with these issues.
by Dr.iur. Jānis Pleps, Docent at the University of Latvia. The practice of the Constitutional Court of Latvia and the verities of the theory of constitutional law clearly mark the most essential fundamental values of the statehood of Latvia. The Court acknowledged that ‘the State of Latvia is based on the core values that among other include the fundamental human rights and personal freedoms, democracy, sovereignty of state and people, division of authority and rule of law. The state is obliged to guarantee these values, and they cannot be infringed by the statutory amendments to the Constitution.’ (Case no. 2008-35-01)
by Thomas Fleiner On November 30, the Swiss voters and the cantons had to decide on three popular initiatives. They rejected all three initiatives with 60 to 78% of voters. The participation of voters was 48%. Sixty percent of the voters and almost all cantons rejected the popular initiative for economic justice for taxpayers. The initiative proposed a new article in the constitution, which required that all people living in Switzerland have to pay taxes according to their economic performance.
by Brian Ray, Cleveland-Marshall College of Law Cross-post from I•CONnect blog (http://www.iconnectblog.com/2014/11/brian-ray-review-icon-debate-socio-economic-rights/). The recent exchange between Professor David Bilchitz and Professors Xenophon Contiades and Alkmene Fotiadou in ICON’s pages over how courts should enforce social rights during times of economic crisis illustrates the decisive—and refreshing—shift away from the justiciability questions that long have dominated the comparative constitutional law discussion.

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Swiss votations on February 9, 2020

by Prof. Markus Kern / Fabian Schmid, University of Bern

On February 9, 2020, two proposals were up for decision by the Swiss electorate:
– the Popular Initiative claiming “more affordable homes” as well as
– a referendum concerning a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation in criminal law
The Popular Initiative was rejected by 57.1% of the Swiss population and by all but 4½ of the cantons, whereas the amendment of criminal law was clearly accepted by a majority of 63.1% of the voters. Electoral turnout was at 41.7% resp. 40.9%.

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Illiberal constitutionalism 2 – constraints on public power

by Tímea Drinóczi, Professor, University of Pécs, Faculty of Law, Hungary

Illiberal states emerging in Europe, such as Hungary and Poland, are still constitutional democracies, which are shaped peacefully by populist politicians from a more substantial form of constitutional democracy that prioritizes (liberal) constitutional values through the use of populist style of governance, abusive constitutionalism, and autocratic legalism.[1] In our cases, the minimum requirements of a constitutional democracy, such as the rule of law, human rights, and democracy, have been defectively worded in a constitution, or poorly implemented or enforced.

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