Constitutionalism and political leadership in Central and Eastern European countries: challenges and perspectives

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Author: Irina Kenenova

DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2018-5-11-41

Keywords: Central and Eastern Europe; constitutionalism; liberal values; political leadership; populism; transit


This article contains the methodological framework and results of a comparative analysis of constitutionalism and political leadership in Central and Eastern European countries carried out in a study of constitutional and legal development and political practices of the Visegrad Group. The challenges of populism, deconstructing constitutionalism limits of defining this term, as well as the spread of quasi-institutionalism in Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia are being addressed through the development of constitutional systems and political leadership practices. The author argues that the most destructive feature of populism is the substitution of a publicly declared value basis of politics by the private and corporate interests of elite groups. The purpose of this survey is to show various ways the V4 leaders use to concentrate power, including: formal compliance with constitutional provisions, while violating general principles of constitutionalism; the spread of informal political technologies based on traditions and stereotypes of behavior among political parties; constitutional law reforms enhancing the legal basis of political domination; and the election of a leader-partner, thereby providing additional resources for legitimacy. The types of constitutional reforms that were initiated by the political leaders of the Visegrad Four and their parties are also identified in this article. These reforms were aimed at consolidating the dominance of these political actors and resulted in a violation of judiciary independence, as well as violations of the rule of law and separation of powers, suppression of political opposition and civil society institutions, including the media, and the deterioration of relations with the institutions of the European Union. This article also analyzes various scientific approaches to the degradation of constitutionalism in CIS countries: the cyclic nature of constitutional development; the formal nature of the post-socialist liberal transit (which actually did not take place), and the imitation of systematic reforms in the states of the region. The author argues that there was no liberal consensus reached throughout civil society, but only in some groups of political elites in the countries considered. Thus, it is confirmed that that liberal project in the CEE was forced to follow the Western models of political and legal decisions, supported by society in the hope of finding a “Western standard of living”. Finally, the author proves the predominant influence of socio-psychological factors in comparison with economic, political, and legal factors in the rejection of the liberal choice by the V4. Thus, the disillusionment with the reforms of the 80s and 90s, which were wounded by criticism of “Western teachers”, resulted in a protest against the liberal values and policies that were pursued by the EU and pushed by national dignity. The author illustrates that the features of modern social relations in post-socialist societies are more consistent with hierarchically organized mobilization models of governance and the centralization of political power.

About the author: Irina Kenenova – Candidate of Sciences (Ph.D.) in Law, Associate Professor, Chair of Constitutional and Municipal Law, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia.

Citation: Kenenova I. (2018) Konstitutsionalizm i politicheskoe liderstvo v stranakh Tsentral’noy i Vostochnoy Evropy: problemy i perspectivy [Constitutionalism and political leadership in Central and Eastern European countries: challenges and perspectives] Sravnitel'noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol. 27, no. 5, pp. 11–41. (In Russian).


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