The Russia’s move to constitutional dictatorship: reflections on 2020 constitutional amendments

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Author: Andrey Medushevsky

DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2020-3-33-50

Keywords: authoritarian rule; constitutional dictatorship; constitutional limits of the presidential terms in office; head of the state; juridical coup; legitimacy; political regime; russian constitutional reform 2020; separation of powers; the integral system of public power


The current Russian constitutional reform provoked an intensive debate on the nature, legal substance and consequences of the whole bulk of constitutional amendments introduced in the year 2020. From the one hand, the initiators of reform were keen on affirmation of a proven formal and even substantial continuity of amendments with the text of the Basic Law of 1993. From the other hand, their opponents demonstrated the apparent transformation and distortion of many important constitutional provisions regarding some key constitutional principles – law-based state, federalism and local self-government, parliamentary rule, bicameralism, separation of powers, independent justice and constitutional limitations of presidential terms in power. The author thinks that these two contested opinions could find junction in a framework of a new theoretic explication, namely of constitutional dictatorship formula. In historical and comparative perspective this system of government means the establishment and development of unlimited power of one person by formally adopted constitutional methods – on the base of the manifested people’s consent, unanimous agreement of all branches of power and in formal accordance with the letter if not spirit of the constitution in action. In reality this reform could be interpreted as the so-called “juridical coup” – deep transformation of the whole constitutional order, while, without visible violations of formal amending norms and procedures. Taking this idea as a conceptual cornerstone of the Russian constitutional reform, the author analyses constitutional dictatorship as the particular system of government, its different notions, historical and current modifications, ideological grounds, political regime, the special role of the head of the state as a constitutional dictator, and the problem of the supreme power continuity, legitimacy, and preeminence under this form of authoritarian rule. The analyses gravitation center involves such parameters as a new symbolic status of the head of the state, the enlargement of his prerogatives, the mandate to power duration, and the problem of successor solution.

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

Citation: Medushevsky A. (2020) Perekhod Rossii k konstitutsionnoy diktature: razmyshleniya o znachenii reformу 2020 goda [The Russia’s move to constitutional dictatorship: reflections on 2020 constitutional amendments]. Srav­nitel'noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol.29, no.3, pp.33–50. (In Russian).


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