Sujit Choudhry is a recognized authority when it comes to comparative constitutional law, having worked as an advisor to constitutional building, governance, as well as law processes for more than 20 years, in places such as Ukraine, Yemen, Nepal, Egypt, and more. He is the founder and director of Center for Constitutional Transitions, which is generating and mobilizing knowledge in support of constitutional building through the assembly of international networks of experts.
Mr. Choudhry gave lectures and spoke in 30 countries and has worked during conditions of political violence and ceasefires. His field experience includes facilitating public dialogue sessions, technical advice to multi-party dialogues, leading stakeholder constitutions, training civil servants and bureaucrats, and more. In 2011, he was named Practitioner of the Year, a title given by the South Asian Bar Association of Toronto.
Sujit Choudhry recently shared his thoughts on constitutional resilience to populism, offering 4 theses. He started his post by invoking Mattias Kumm, who argues populist challenge to constitutional democracy to be systemic, due to the fact that it is taking aim at all core features that constitutional democracy has, as opposed to simply targeting one feature in isolation from the rest. Kumm claims that populists are denying the idea of legitimate opposition and the idea that pluralism is the normal state of politics. In an effort to point out if there are ways in which it is possible to enhance the resilience of a constitution in order to ensure its survival when it’s being attacked by populist challenge, Sujit Choudhry makes his argument in 4 theses.
His first thesis begins with a plea for modesty, noting that constitutional democrats have to realistic about the good that constitutional design is capable of. He notes that we have to steer a middle course between nihilism and constitutional idealism – due to the fact that constitutional idealists believe that intelligent constitutional design can largely erase the risk that populism poses, whereas constitutional nihilists believe that constitutional design can do little (if anything) in the face of the populist challenge.
His second thesis notes that the populist challenge to the constitutional democracy is widespread but also misunderstood, due to the fact that populists often times get conflated with autocrats. He states that constitutional resilience has to be careful in order to not overreach and entrench all aspects of the current political and economic order. According to Mr. Choudhry, we have to extend an open hand to individual who turned to populism because of a representation gap.
The third thesis poses the idea that we should be able to distinguish between two conceptions of constitutional resilience – one view considering the threats to constitutional democracy as coming from the mobilization of the populist political side, and the other view being that constitutional stability is resting on a political foundation of power relations, and the fact that constitutions are providing infrastructure for a contestation which is partisan and pluralist. He states that the goal is for the constitution to be self-enforcing, as well as sustained and strengthened by political competition. Turning our backs upon politics, believes Mr. Choudhry, will undermine constitutional order in the long run from the populist challenge.
The fourth and final thesis points out that if the infrastructure designed for political competition is at the heart of the constitutional resilience then we should broaden the institutional viewfinder of the constitutional law behind its narrow focus on electoral system design as well as political party regulation. He brings up the fact that Polish contributors to the workshop have highlighted the fact that the weakening of opposition rights in the legislative process is an important dimension when it comes to the democratic backsliding, and it has been largely overlooked.