Constitutional Change

by George Tsebelis & Dominic J. Nardi, Jr. When the Eurozone crisis struck Europe in 2009, it soon became apparent that Southern European countries would have to drastically restructure government spending and improve their competitiveness in order to reduce excessive levels of public debt. However, some states found themselves unable to do so, and not merely because of lack of political will. In some cases, detailed socioeconomic provisions in their constitutions limited their scope of action. For example, Greece’s 1975 Constitution prohibits the privatization of universities (art. 16(5)). In short, such constitutional provisions risk locking governments into policies that in other countries would not even be considered questions of constitutional law.
by Dr. Alkmene Fotiadou. How often does one find answers to questions that lurked at the back of one’s mind? New scholarship has emerged addressing such questions and, most importantly, articulating more questions that, if answered, have much to offer to the manner in which constitutional change is approached. Prof. Richard Albert has recently posted two new articles on SSRN: “Constitutional Amendment by Constitutional Desuetude” (http://ssrn.com/abstract=2461509) and “The Structure of Constitutional Amendment Rules” (http://ssrn.com/abstract=2461507) that are a must read for anyone who strives to make sense of the complex ways formal and informal constitutional change occurs.
by Professor Christer Karlsson, Uppsala University. Constitutional change has emerged as a prominent topic in the research on constitutional politics and comparative law. In practice, constitutional change can be brought about in two fundamentally different ways: either by changing the wording of the constitutional document, or by changing the meaning of the constitution while leaving the constitutional text itself unaltered. The distinction between explicit and implicit constitutional change is certainly not a new one. Georg Jellinek published his seminal work Verfassungsänderung und Verfassungswandel as early as 1906 and more recent studies have shown that both kinds of constitutional change occur regularly in modern democracies.
by Abraham Barrero Ortega and Irene Sobrino Guijarro. Over the last months, within the context of a complicated political scenario due to the economic crisis and the nationalist tensions, voices insisting on the need for constitutional reform are being intensively raised in Spain. Without questioning such a need, it may nonetheless be useful to reflect on the difficulties that such an enterprise would entail at the present date- May 2014.
by Helle Krunke. When the present Danish government was appointed in the fall of 2011 it announced that it wanted to initiate a new discussion of the Constitution and form a constitutional commission. This initiative was launched in a government platform together with other aims. However, the government now has one year left in office and no constitutional debate or commission has seen the light of day yet. In 2015 Denmark celebrates the 100-anniversary of the former 1915-Constitution which is normally said to be the Constitution which turned Denmark in to a real democracy.
by Dr. Arta Vorpsi, Legal adviser at the Constitutional Court of Albania. In November this year, it will be 16 years from the entry into effect of the Albanian Constitution. Lately, since the new election in June 2013 after which a coalition of Socialist Party and Socialist Movement for Integration came into power, there is a discussion regarding the need of a deep constitutional reform in Albania. The need to revise the fundamental document of the state may only be determined by political and institutional developments that have taken place during this period. In fact, Albanian constitutionalists, political actors and analysts, as well as representatives of some independent state institutions seem to concur that the Constitution should not be subject to frequent and partial amendments.
by Thomas Fleiner On May 18 the Swiss voters and the cantons had to decide on three popular initiatives. They adopted two constitutional proposals and rejected one initiative. On the same day the voters had also to decide on the acquisition of 22 Gripen, which are new military jets that Switzerland wanted to buy from Sweden for more than three billion francs. The Swiss legislature enacted a law to provide an endowment fund. Against this legislation, some people required a referendum. In the end, the peoples decided with 53% of the voters to reject this law.
by Annemarie Stomp, Research intern with the State of Emergency Project and Prof. Dr. Andrej Zwitter, University of Groningen. Ukraine remains unstable and might be facing a civil war. On the 16th of March, based on a referendum Crimea separated itself (at least de facto) from the Ukraine and the Russian State Duma ratified an agreement that makes Crimea part of the Russian Federation. Subsequently, armed groups began seizing government buildings also in the eastern part of Ukraine. By the 16th of April, protesters controlled administrative buildings in eight cities of the Donetsk Oblast.
by John McEldowney. Introduction. The rise in popularity of the United Kingdom Independence Party(UKIP) in the UK amidst the possibility of popular support for euro-sceptic political parties raises major constitutional issues about the UK’s continued membership of the EU. A recent TV debate between the Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of UKIP proved how difficult it was to present technical arguments for membership in the context of popular scepticism about the EU. Winning the argument to stay in the EU will not be easy as a promised “in/out” referendum is likely to be held if the Conservative Party win the next election. The time-table for the next general election is fixed for May 2015 but the run up to that election will set an unprecedented time for the UK. There are considerable self-imposed constraints on the UK’s approach to the EU that mark a considerable departure from the approach of previous governments.
by Zoltán Szente In the parliamentary elections of Hungary, held on 6 April, the ruling conservative coalition i.e. the alliance of Fidesz and the Christian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP), as in 2010, gained once again a two-thirds majority. It was the first election after the considerable and highly debated changes in constitutional and election rules. The Fidesz-KDNP won 133 of the 199 parliamentary mandates, while the left-liberal Unity Alliance acquired 38, the extreme right Jobbik 23, and the liberal green party LMP 5 seats.

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