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Kovalčík, Michal. “The instrumental abuse of constitutional courts: how populists can use constitutional courts against the opposition.” The International Journal of Human Rights (2022): 1-21.


If populists capture the constitutional court, the system of separation of powers will change. The constitutional court does not act as a counterweight to the ruling majority but rather as a tool for the ruling majority itself to advance its interests. This article unpacks this aspect of populist constitutionalism, which I referred to as the instrumental abuse of constitutional courts. Most importantly, it presents and analyses five different techniques by which populists can abuse the constitutional court as an instrument against opposition. These techniques are the ‘governing, do not disturb’ technique, consisting in not quashing unconstitutional acts; the legitimation technique, through which populists justify their actions; the delegation technique, through which populists shift responsibility for potentially unpopular actions to the constitutional court; the outright counter-opposition technique, through which populists can achieve the liquidation of their opponents; and the extra-legal technique, involving the use of the authority of judges in the media.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.