Constitutional construction in Central Asia: strategies of maneuvering between global and national priorities (current constitutional reforms in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan)

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Author: Andrey Medushevsky

DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2023-2-33-68

Keywords: Middle Asian constitutions; constitutional amendments; reforms and counter-reforms; identity; form of government; presidential rule and its limits; constitutional hypocrisy; political constitutionalism; authoritarian legalism; constitutional maneuvering


Analysis of the constitutional reform programs of three countries in Central Asia in 2021–2023 reveals two opposite trends. On the one hand, these reforms symbolize a modernization impetus – the devotion of elites to integration of their countries into the currently forming system of global constitutionalism. On the other hand, a reform strategy cannot ignore an opposite trend in global (transnational) legal development, that of fragmentation of global legal regimes in order to find new sources for legitimacy and protection from the new global challenges of identity, economic crisis, pandemic, ecological disaster, and cultural, confessional and geopolitical turbulence. These challenges combine with internal political instability arising from issues such as cross-confessional, national, and ethnic conflicts and coinciding with the natural process of power transition from the first generation of political leaders to the next one. The real dilemma for reformers is how to modernize society without endangering social and political stability and also preserving the existing leadership’s power. The pragmatic solution of this dilemma entails compromises between idealism and realism in constitutional construction, between legal modernization and re-traditionalization, and between liberal democracy and guided democracy. From this point of view, constitutional amendments embody the compromises made by elites in choosing between opposing policies in such vital areas as state-society relations, forms of government, construction of leadership, and an accepted formulation of legitimacy. This approach, which may reflect the reformers’ “constitutional hypocrisy”, opens the path to self-contradictory constitutional innovations, pendulum swings between reform and counter-reform, hybrid institutional constructions, and pragmatic calculations of benefits and losses in the constitutional power game. Constitutional pragmatism excludes fully blossomed democracy and tends to creation of a more rational bureaucratic state. Authoritarian legalism is, perhaps, a new synthesis of two opposing values – the demand for a lawful order and the demand for stable and predictable development. In the framework of this political constitutionalism, permanent constitutional maneuvering means that the political regimes of Central Asia face a difficult search for an adequate adaptation to the standards of global constitutionalism.

About the author: Andrey Medushevsky – Doctor of Sciences in Philosophy, Tenured Professor, Faculty of Law, Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Medushevsky A.N. (2023) Pravovoe ustroystvo Sredney Azii: strategii manevrirovaniya mezhdu glo­bal’nymi i natsional’nymi prioritetami (noveyshie konstitutsionnye preobrazovaniya v Kirgizii, Kazakhstane i Uzbekistane) [Constitutional construction in Central Asia: strategies of maneuvering between global and national priorities (current constitutional reforms in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan)]. Sravnitel’noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol. 32, no. 2, pp. 33–68. (In Russian).


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