Sujit Choudhry on How the Polish Government Contributed to the Deterioration of its Constitutional Democracy

By , in News Polish Government on .

Sujit Choudhry is an internationally recognized authority on comparative constitutional law and politics. His research focus spans across a wide variety of comparative constitutional law and politics issues. Choudhry has recently composed a book chapter that is planned for release into the Constitutional Democracies in Crisis? in which he raises several intriguing points regarding the current political climate in the nation.


The chapter is Professor Choudhry’s commentary on several aspects of the current political climate in the nation, specifically examples in the media and other places in the world that allude to a deterioration of constitutional democracy as well as the presidency as an autocracy. According to him, the threat to democracy has evolved since the Cold War. In particular, he focuses on the example of Poland’s Law and Justice Party, referred to it by its Polish initials, PiS, which a nationalist, populist and right-wing party that has won a legislative majority in the 2015 elections to Poland’s parliament, the Sejm. The government has since focused all its efforts on undermining the framework of Poland’s constitutional democracy in order to both eliminate obstacles to its rule as well as ensure its power in future electoral cycles.


Choudhry goes into great detail as he describes the threats that constitutional democracy has faced in Poland via the PiS. According to him, the first focus had been on Poland’s Constitutional Court as well as other ordinary courts. He collectively referred to them as “La Suite Polonaise,” to “capture that they are a series of distinct initiatives which nonetheless are components of a coherent strategy with thematic unity.”


He describes in detail how new rules governing the constitution of panels, voting, the assignment of judges to cases, a creation of an Interim President, were all means by which a party through seemingly technical procedures in nature, rather than the ulterior motives that truly represent them, steered the Polish government in their favorable direction over the course of a year.


“Again, unlike a single, comprehensive constitutional amendment, the capture of the Constitutional Tribunal took place over a period of slightly over a year, at an uneven pace, with periods of intense activity followed by months of apparent inactivity,” he writes.


Choudhry also writes, “Indeed, they seem like housekeeping matters that fall within the scope of legitimate constitutional design and reasonable disagreement far from the shoals of constitutional capture.  And the objections to them are also highly technical: for example, the apparent circumvention of the Vice President of the Tribunal by creating an Interim President.” And yet they were small steps to an entire overhaul – a threat to constitutional democracy.


Sujit Choudhry is an I. Michael Heyman Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley and a founding director of the Center for Constitutional Transitions. He is known all over the world for his extensive knowledge on politics and comparative constitutional law.


Choudhry has also been a constitutional advisor for over two decades. He is expert in facilitating public dialogue sessions with civil society groups and other stakeholders, leading stakeholder consultations, performing detailed advisory work with technical experts, training civil servants and bureaucrats, engaging party leaders and parliamentarians, and drafting technical reports and memoranda in the field. He is currently also a member of the United Nations Mediation Roster and consultant to the World Bank Institute at the World Bank and the United Nations Development Program.


Sujit Choudhry has been an advisor to foreign dignitaries who were building constitutions in their own countries, including Sri Lanka, Yemen, South Africa, Ukraine, Egypt, Jordan, Nepal, Libya and Tunisia. The World Bank and the United Nations Development Program invited him to be a consultant to the World Bank Institute. He is also associated with the United Nations Mediation Roster.


The Center for Constitutional Transitions seeks to gather knowledge in the effort of constructing constitutions. Constitutional experts all over the world participate in these research studies that provide evidence for policy options that are offered to those who need them. Many entities take part in these studies, including universities, NGOs, think tanks and multilateral organizations. Through the Center’s partnership with with the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, Choudhry co-leads three global collaborative research projects. These include Dealing with Territorial Cleavages in Constitutional Transitions, Security Sector Reform and Constitutional Transitions in Emerging Democracies, and Security Sector Oversight: Protecting Democratic Consolidation from Authoritarian Backsliding and Partisan Abuse.


His publication record includes over ninety articles, book chapters, working papers and reports. He is author of several books, including The Migration of Constitutional IdeasConstitutional Design for Divided Societies: Integration or Accommodation?The Oxford Handbook of the Indian Constitution and Constitution Making. Choudhry is a member of the Executive Committee of the International Society of Public Law, the International Advisory Council of the Institute for Integrated Transitions, the Scientific Advisory Board of the International Journal of Constitutional Law, the Editorial Board of the Constitutional Court Review, the Editorial Advisory Board for the Cambridge Studies in Constitutional Law, and is an Honorary Member of the Advisory Council of the Indian Constitutional Law Review.


More information on Sujit Choudhry can be found on his personal website as well as on LinkedIn, Twitter (@sujit_choudhry), Instagram (@sujitchoudhry) and on Facebook. More information regarding the Center can be found on its website

Ron Blair was born and raised in New York City but moved to California when he was 22.. Apart from running his own podcast, Ron spends his time training for and competing in triathlons.. As a journalist Ron has published stories for Huffington Post we well as Buzz Feed and Motherboard. As a contributor to LA News Watch, Ron mostly covers science and health stories

Recommended articles