The Polish Constitution of 1997 is an embodiment of political compromise, since its adoption required reaching a broad constitutional coalition, in particular on ideological issues. On the substance, the authors of the Constitution agreed that “the Republic of Poland shall be a democratic state ruled by law and implementing the principles of social justice” (art. 2 of the Constitution). Public opinion polls show that Polish people are distrustful of public institutions and in political debate, there have been demands for amending the Constitution. Has the Polish constitution stood the test of time and proved to be effective in times of crisis? Is a positive or a negative assessment of the application of the Constitution predominant? The paper discusses constitutional mechanisms guaranteeing the observance of the principles of a democratic state of law and the current practice of the Polish supreme state bodies in this respect, as these factors are vital for building trust.
After fifty years of Soviet occupation, Estonia regained its independence in 1991. Within only seven months, a new constitution was drafted. Estonia’s constitution can be determined by its five fundamental principles: human dignity, democracy, the rule of law, the social state and the Estonian identity.
Estonia has been the best performer of the Freedom House’s survey on the development of democracy in formerly communist countries. However, the 2019 parliamentary elections brought Estonia’s populist party as a coalition partner into government. This has given reason for various constitutional controversies and led Estonia’s president to conclude that the government poses a danger to the constitutional order. What role has the constitution played in Estonia’s successful democratization process and beyond? How does it withstand the challenges posed by the arrival of the populists in government? The paper takes a closer look at this questions, consulting also authors of the constitution.
After the fall of the iron curtain, Hungary formally kept its former (1949) Constitution in force. The document, which, as a result of `roundtable negotiations`, was changed in its substance by way of formal amendment and laid the ground for democratic rule and the rule of law, was enacted by the ’old’ parliament. In 2011, parliament enacted the new constitution (replacing the former one) called Fundamental Law, with the unilateral votes of the governing party. None of both documents was enacted in a deliberative constitution-making process: in 1989, the comprehensive amendment was enacted by a parliament which was not freely elected, while in 2011 there was no genuine debate on the constitution in the freely elected parliament. As a consequence, the paper argues, none of Hungary`s past and present constitutions’ was and is able to be the sources of public trust in democracy.
After the collapse of the totalitarian communist regime in 1989, Romania seemed to have chosen the path towards a liberal democracy. At declaratory level, the new regime decided to engage on this way, by firstly adopting a new Constitution, meant to enshrine the principles of democracy and rule of law. “Aversive constitutionalism” was a foundation of the new fundamental law, reflected in the choice of the constitutional regime (semi-presidential) and in other democratic mechanisms. One of the main goals of the new political regime, expressed during and after the adoption of the Constitution, was the European integration. The paper will discuss the main provisions of the Constitution designed to build trust in democracy and the rule of law, the contextual details and the role that the Constitution has developed in this regard during the last 29 years.