ABF Talk: Constitutional Legacies in Authoritarian Regimes

On Wednesday 10 October, I will present as part of the American Bar Foundation speaker series in Chicago on “Constitutional Legacies in Authoritarian Regimes: How the Military Uses the Constitution to Rule Myanmar”.

Abstract: How and why do authoritarian regimes draft constitutions to perpetuate their legacy? The field of comparative constitutional law and politics has sought to understand the role and function of constitutions in authoritarian regimes. My presentation will consider how the military uses the Constitution to rule Myanmar today. Using qualitative methods, I question why and how the Constitution is crucial to maintain the ‘military-state’ in Myanmar. The military spent two decades crafting this Constitution, and insisted on going ahead with the referendum in 2008 despites the devastation of Cyclone Nargis in that year. I suggest that the Constitution is central to the construction and maintenance of the ‘military-state’. This military-state has three components: first, the leading role of the military in national politics; second, the three ideology meta-principles of the military-state; and third, the concept of cooperative centralism as a way to describe the distribution of power and relationship between the branches of government. This presentation is based on my forthcoming book, The Constitution of Myanmar (Hart, 2019). Part of the importance of this project and future research lies in the new lines of inquiry that Myanmar can open in the field of comparative constitutional law and the way that this case calls us to pay greater attention to constitutional legacies, forms of authoritarian legality and the dark side of constitutional endurance.