Democratic decay and renewal in Malta

In 2017, Maltese journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, was murdered by a car bomb. Her investigations were raising questions of corruption within the Maltese Government. Whilst those who allegedly planted the bomb await trial, investigations into those responsible for the attack are ongoing. Focus is on figures within and close to Joseph Muscat’s Government. Some have been questioned; others have been arrested on corruption charges and a businessman has been charged with complicity in the murder.

This paper shows how the allegations of corruption, the assassination and the way in which investigations have been organised raise questions of Government actions, as well as features of the Maltese constitutional system. The current imbalance of power in favour of the Government, combined with recent actions of that Government, are arguably leading to democratic decay and neglect for the rule of law. The paper asks how this trend might be reversed, and the rule of law enhanced.

Technology, Inequality and Our Evolving Democratic Culture: Is Australia at Risk of Democratic Decline?

While technological advancements buttress the expansion of modern democracies, in recent decades the hastening pace of technological change is propelling stable democracies in chaotic new directions. While Australia is rightly considered a healthy and stable democracy, many drivers of democratic decline are increasingly present. Three entwined trajectories are of concern. First, technology-enabled automation, globalisation and market liberalisation together are propelling job polarisation and inequality; second, this may be facilitating political polarisation and declining trust in political institutions that fail to address the concerns of those left behind; third, technology is directly disrupting Australian political culture, supercharging polarisation, amplifying distrust and distorting our ability to conduct rational and truthful debates – hampering our ability to address the above problems. We outline reforms that may help address these core drivers of democratic decline.

The Erosion of the Liberal Public Sphere

Recent studies of democratic erosion in comparative constitutional scholarship have not paid detailed attention to why and how the quality of the public sphere, as one indispensable underpinning of liberal democracy, has been challenged. This essay attempts to fill this gap. It argues that the inherent tension between the constraint and exercise of public power in the public sphere has been exacerbated in an era where the roles of government are much more difficult to define. Also, given that the public sphere is a highly organic body, any slight adjustment of the regulatory schemes can substantially influence its dynamics on the power relationship among multiple actors. This paper will use comparative evidence to identify three patterns of government intervention in the public sphere across the globe: right-based, institution-based, and political culture-based. This paper aims to add another analytical layer to the current discussion of democratic erosion and the public sphere.

The Populist-Public Relationship and the Interaction of Public Trusts

This paper adds much-needed nuance to authenticity-based understandings of the relationship between the populist leader and the public. Merging scholarship from law, philosophy, psychology and other social sciences, it argues that the populist-public relationship reflects an interaction of two principal forms of public trust. The first is the public’s trust in the populist. This trust follows primarily from the populist’s appeals to authenticity, rooted in the public’s perception of similarity to, and identification with, the populist. However, and significantly, this trust arises alongside, and in interaction with, a second form of public trust – the public’s trust in itself (‘public self-trust’). We contend that these two trusts are mutually reinforcing. And the result of the interaction, we suggest, is a positive feedback loop of public trust that helps sustain populism.

The Spill-over Effect of the Chinese Communist Party’s Regulation of Political Speech

This paper conceptualises the spill-over effect of the Chinese Communist Party’s regulation of political speech on China’s constitutional framework to the extent that it might reshape the global contours of speech regulation. The paper will trace the historical lineage of the intra-party doctrines of speech regulation, ruminate the normative doctrines, decipher the institutional reconstruction of speech regulation regenerated by relevant new constitutional mandates and featured by dualistic Party-state governance. The paper will also explore how China weaponises its authoritarian approach to international law by virtue of such constitutionalised speech-regulatory work. Finally, the paper forecasts the prospect of the spill-over effect amidst the tension between the global constitutionalist call and the challenges posed by worldwide growing authoritarianism. The article argues that such global effect could be penned by the genetic paradox of its underlying political ideology.