The Politics of Judicial Engagement with Constitutional Amendments

Constitutional amendment is a common method by which political branches bring about constitutional change. Some of these amendments however may critically transform the existing constitutional arrangement to serve what Landau and Dixon have called “abusive” constitutional aims. This paper examines recent judicial engagements with constitutional amendments in Singapore and Malaysia. In particular, it highlights the employment of the judicially created basic structure doctrine as a way to defend certain fundamental features of the constitutional order against political overreach. The discussion is contextualized within Malaysia and Singapore's evolving political conditions and serves to highlight the potential as well as limits of judicial review as a way to uphold extant constitutional values.