Constitutional Change

by Dr. Alkmini Fotiadou, Centre For European Constitutional Law. There is an almost universal consensus that the rule of law is desirable. Given this enthusiasm, it is remarkable how little is known about the factors conducive to it. A precondition for improving our knowledge of the rule of law is the ability to measure it. In a paper recently posted on the internet, Jerg Gutmann and Stefan Voigt from the University of Hamburg, set out to do just that. Based on very extensive data from a survey carried out in 99 countries, they propose a new indicator for the rule of law.
by Jónatas E.M. Machado, Faculty of Law of the University of Coimbra, Portugal. Last October 4th, Portugal had its general election. After four years of painful economic austerity, the people was called to pass judgement on the center-right coalition which ruled the country during the troubled Troika years. Surprisingly, the “Portugal Ahead” platform of Passos Coelho and Paulo Portas, the leaders of the ruling coalition parties (Social Democratic Party and the Democratic and Social Center/Popular Party), ended up winning the election, albeit with little less than 37% of the votes.
by Xenophon Contiades and Alkmene Fotiadou. Cross-post from Constitutional Change through Euro Crisis Law, EUI Law Department, http://eurocrisislaw.eui.eu/news/the-greek-referendum-unconstitutional-and-undemocratic-by-xenophon-contiades-and-alkmene-fotiadou/. No democratic country should have to decide on its future through an unconstitutional, undemocratic referendum. Greece did. On Sunday, Greek citizens went to the polls to answer a question characterized by oracular ambiguity. A timeline of the short pre-referendum period would begin with the announcement of the referendum on Friday June 26th, when the Greek Prime minister announced that a referendum would be held on Sunday July 6th. The vote would be on the «Reforms for the completion of the Current Program and Beyond» and on the «Preliminary Debt sustainability analysis», the then latest offer of the international lenders.
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.

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