The 'Method and Madness' of Authoritarian Constitution Making in Democratic Regimes

AutoreAmal Sethi
CaricaFellow, Faculty of Law, University of Hamburg
ISSN: 2612-6672
3 • 2 • 2021
A. Sethi
The ‘Method and Madness’ of
Authoritarian Constitution Making
in Democratic Regimes
The Method and Madness of Authoritarian Constitution
Making in Democratic Regimes
Amal Sethi
Globally, more than half the attempts at making a democratic constitution have failed to produce
one. Another large number of constitutions have suffered the ignominy of having a draft made
and implemented, but ultimately being rejected by the populace or political elites for failing to
perform its intended functions. A curious case emerges in instances when would-be-autocrats
draft authoritarian constitutions in democratic regimes. They do it rather successfully. Moreover,
they do so without using force, with the consent of large sections of the society, and in ostensibly
democratic ways. The question that then arises is how would-be-autocrats are more successful
than their democratic counterparts in such ventures. Using three varied examples of authoritarian
constitution-making from Hungary, Venezuela, and Turkey, this article will examine the method
and madness behind the success of would-be autocrats constitution-making endeavors and these
authoritarian constitutions acceptance by the populace.
Keywords: Constitution-Making Democratic Backsliding Turkey Hungary Venezuela
CONTENTS: 1. Prologue. 2. How to Successfully Draft a Constitution? 2.1 The Process of
Constitution-Making. 2.2 The Design of the Constitution. 3. Authoritarian Constitution
Making in Democratic Regimes. 3.1 Venezuela (Authoritarian Constitution-Making by
Bypassing the Existing Legal System). 3.2 Hungary (Authoritarian Constitution Within
the Existing Legal System). 3.3 Turkey (Constitution-Making Through Ordinary
Constitutional Amendments). 4. Conducting an Autopsy - Why Are Would-Be Autocrats
Successful in Making Authoritarian Constitutions? 4.1 Several Elements of A Successful
Constitution-Making Process. 4.2 Absence of Any Nonconformity Issues. 4.3 Workable
Constitutions. 4.4 Failure of Constitutional Safeguards and Institutional Checks. 4.5 Lack
of United Opposition Forces. 5. Epilogue.
Fellow, Faculty of Law, University of Hamburg. The author would like to thank Aditya Phalnikar, Karthik
Rai, Sumit Chatterjee, and Vasu Aggarwal for their excellent assistance on this article and the larger project.
The author would also like to thank the participants at the ICON:S Mundo Conference’s Panel on
‘Democratic Backsliding, Making, and Changing The Constitution for their valuable comments.
Furthermore, the author would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their pertinent feedback and
observations. The essay was submitted to double blind peer review. Member of the Editorial Team who
oversaw the essay: Simone Gianello.

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