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Medushevsky A. N. Washington: Free Russia, 2018.

quarter of a century has passed since the Constitution of the Russian Federation was adopted in 1993, yet the issue of the results and the prospects for constitutional transformation has not disappeared from the political agenda. For some, the Constitution signifies an ultimate break up with the communist past and a legal foundation for the advancement of the Russian society toward democracy and the rule of law; for the others, it is exactly the Constitution that is the culprit for the authoritarian trend that has prevailed, and for the sustained stagnation in Russia’s economic, social and political development. The author of this chapter is in the middle of these extreme viewpoints. He believes that the Constitution has truly played a pivotal role in Russia’s move toward democracy by establishing the basic principles of civil society and the rule of law, and in this respect, it remains of everlasting and paramount importance. Nevertheless, that does not mean that it should be utterly inaccessible for changes, especially given the elapsed time and the negative experience of the authoritarian transformation of the political regime, the amendments that were introduced between2008 and 2014, and the current objectives of the democratic movement. The rationale for changes is to return to the constitutional principles, reaffirm their initial democratic meaning by rejecting the excessive concentration of the Presidential power, the results of counter-reforms and the adulteration through legislative and regulatory compliance practices. Some of the proposed remedies aim to establish a new form of government (Presidential - Parliamentary), which would necessitate Constitutional amendments — adjustments that would regulate the separation of powers and redistribution of authority. Others seek to transform the system without changing the text of the Constitution through legislative reforms, judicial interpretation and the policy of law. Yet, the third approach prioritizes institutional reforms. Not everything in social development depends on the provisions of the law, political improvisation and practice can prove just as critical. In their cumulative entirety such initiatives can help avoid the two extremes: that of constitutional stagnation gravitating toward the bureaucratic asphyxiation, and that of constitutional populism which has a tendency to destabilize the political system. In its practical activities to transform the political regime, the opposition ought to remember the maximum repeatedly confirmed by experience, — the further a party is from power, the more radical tend to be its constitutional proposals. Conversely, empowered groups tend to be more moderate in their initiatives.

Added: Jan 7, 2019