Constitution Day Lecture to be Given by Political Science Professor Najib Ghadbian

Lecture on Constitution Day by political science professor Najib Ghadbian

Please join Associate Professor Najib Ghadbian in Giffel’s auditorium on Friday 23 September as he speaks on “Protecting Constitutionalism Worldwide”.

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

Ghadbian says of the lecture: “Constitutions codify the social and political contract between society and the state. They set the parameters for the political structure. They give citizens rights 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 all over the world. In my presentation I will address three types of challenges to constitutionalism.

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“First – the populist challenge. Populist leaders exploit fear in times of crisis and then undermine political institutions and practices. Muslim violence that violates principles of religious freedom and minority rights Populist President Jair Bolsonaro, like President Trump, has repeatedly criticized the integrity of Brazil’s electoral system and suggested he could not accept the results of the elections, citing voter fraud.

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“The second challenge is the autocratic challenge – an old phenomenon in which non-democratic regimes have constitutions but abuse citizens’ rights, create an overarching executive branch and selectively apply constitutionalism. Recently, autocratic leaders like Putin in Russia and Sisi in Egypt have amended constitutions to remove term limits.

“The third challenge is the obstacle to drafting constitutions in democratizing countries, particularly where constitutions are introduced without going through a robust process of inclusivity, transparency, national ownership and citizen awareness campaigns. In Egypt, both constitutions drafted by Presidents Morsi and Sisi are excluded political opponents from the drafting process and thus lack legitimacy. In Tunisia, President Kais Saied drafted his own constitution against the backdrop of a previously drafted constitution that followed proper protocols. Saied used his populist appeal to contradict the existing constitution; he used the economic crisis to justify bypassing the citizens’ contribution.

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“I will conclude my presentation with recommendations for protecting constitutionalism worldwide, based on my comparative perspective and personal involvement in constitution-making in the Syrian case.”

Light snacks and beverages will be provided by Ozark Catering.

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