Constitution Day lecture given by political science professor Najib Ghadbian

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Please join Associate Professor Najib Ghadbian on Friday, September 23 at the Giffels Auditorium as he discusses “Safeguarding Constitutionalism Worldwide”.

Ghadbian will focus on three challenges to constitutionalism: the rise of populism, the spread of autocracy, and the difficulty of writing constitutions in democratizing countries.

Ghadbian says of the conference: “Constitutions codify the social and political contract between society and the state. They define the parameters of the political structure. They confer rights on citizens and protect individuals from the state. Constitutionalism refers to the way constitutions define the rule of law and limit the exercise of power.Today we see widespread attacks on constitutionalism across the world.In my presentation, I will discuss three types challenges to constitutionalism.

“First – the populist challenge. Populist leaders exploit fear in times of crisis and then undermine political institutions and practices. A typical example is President Trump’s rejection of election results and thus challenging the election itself as an institution Indian Prime Minister Modi has instigated a campaign against Muslim violence, violating principles of religious freedom and minority rights Populist President Jair Bolsonaro, echoing President Trump, has repeatedly criticized the integrity of the Brazilian electoral system and suggested that he might not accept the election results citing voter fraud.

“The second challenge is the autocratic challenge – an old phenomenon in which undemocratic regimes have constitutions but violate citizens’ rights, create an overarching executive branch, and selectively enforce constitutionalism. Lately, autocratic leaders such as Putin in Russia and Sisi in Egypt amended constitutions to eliminate term limits.

“The third challenge is the hurdle of drafting constitutions in democratizing countries, especially when constitutions are introduced without going through a robust process of inclusiveness, transparency, national ownership and advocacy campaigns. In Egypt, the two constitutions designed by Presidents Morsi and Sisi excluded political opponents from the drafting process and thus lacked legitimacy In Tunisia, President Kais Saied drafted his own constitution in the context of another previously drafted that had followed the correct protocols, Saied used his populist appeal to contradict the existing constitution, he used the economic crisis to justify circumventing citizen input.

“I will conclude my presentation with recommendations for safeguarding constitutionalism globally, based on my comparative perspective and my personal involvement in the path of constitutional design in the Syrian case.”

Light snacks and beverages will be provided by Ozark Catering.

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