Available in Russian
Author: Sergei Manzhosov
Keywords: constitutional amendment; constitutional court; nullification of presidential terms; rotation in office; term limits
The “nullification” of the presidential terms, announced in Russia in March 2020 and judicially approved immediately after that, has come under heavy criticism from the legal community. As in many other cases, the doctrinal discussion of this event’s legal aspects mainly develops in two directions. The first is an analysis of the logical compatibility of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation’s decision with its previous legal positions, and the second is a reassessment of the balance of constitutional values established by the legislator and the judges. However, a more promising one is a conceptual and methodological analysis of judicial argumentation aimed at exploring genetic and logical-semantic relations between the main legal concepts that are used in it, implying also an assessment of this argumentation from the point of view of the methodological rules of judicial reasoning. A key legal concept for both the decision’s motifs and the doctrine is one of rotation in office. In the historical and theoretical part of the study, the author traces the formation of this concept in the Western political and philosophical tradition, concluding that the rotation in office is a legal principle derived from the fundamental principles of democracy, the republican form of government, separation of powers, and the rule of law. It constitutes, therefore, one of the essential features of a constitutional state. As for the practical dimension of it, the principle of rotation in office is disregarded in many former Soviet republics both at the level of normative legal regulation and in constitutional court’s decisions. When it comes to “nullification” of the presidential terms, courts have used ineffective arguments in favor of such a measure, but they do not take into account the objectively existing arguments against it, thereby violating the methodological requirement of comprehensive review. This drawback is also inherent in the legal positions of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation. At the same time, there are some examples in the world practice of constitutional adjudication where the principle of rotation in office played a decisive role as an argument. In addition to this positive experience, the study of term limits in the presidential and semi-presidential republics with efficacious democratic institutions shows that today there is a clear regulatory standard. A deviation from it poses a quite serious threat to constitutional principles and requires particularly convincing justification.
About the author: Sergei Manzhosov – Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, Saint Petersburg State University, Saint Petersburg, Russia.
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