Implementing New Constitutions Workshop

From 13-14 October 2017, Chicago Law School will be holding a workshop on ‘From Parchment to Practise: Implementing New Constitutions’. I will be presenting a paper on “Vehicle for Democratic Transition or Authoritarian Straightjacket? Constitutional Regression and Risks in the Struggle to Change Myanmar’s Constitution“. 

The abstract of my paper is as follows: How hard is it to change a constitution that was drafted by an authoritarian regime to legitimate a new political order? What strategies might democratic actors adopt to change such a constitution, and what risks may they face? Democratic actors in Myanmar who seek to change the 2008 Constitution currently face these dilemmas. In the first part of my chapter I introduce the contours and practice of Myanmar’s 2008 Constitution in order to demonstrate the new political order that was set in place by the former military regime. I then explore the different strategies that have been used to change the 2008 Constitution – formal constitutional amendment proposals in 2013-2015; informal constitutional change through judicial interpretation in the Constitutional Tribunal; and informal constitutional change in the form of the legislative innovation of the Office of the State Counsellor. These strategies may come with particular risks. I identify the various risks democratic actors have suffered for these attempts at constitutional reform. In particular, I highlight the ways in which constitutional regression has occurred, such as the undemocratic proposals put to a vote in parliament as part of the formal constitutional amendment process. I conclude by considering the broader implications for the study of risk-taking and constitutional change in transitional regimes.

The broader program is available here ‘From Parchment to Practise’.

    • Session I: The First Period Problem and a Classic Case
      • Welcome
      • Tom Ginsburg and Aziz Huq, The Theory and Practice of Constitutional Implementation
        • Commentator: Rosalind Dixon, University of New South Wales 
      • Sandy Levinson, Texas, The First Period Problem in the United States
        • Commentator: Eric Slauter, University of Chicago American Studies
  • Saturday, October 14, 2017
    • 8:30am – 9:00am
    • Continental Breakfast