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Professor Sujit Choudhry Opines on Stifling Populist Movements

by Olufisayo

Professor Sujit Choudhry’s Opinion on the Real Threat of Populism

In a recent analysis of whether a superior constitutional design could play an effective role in stopping the spread of populism, Professor Sujit Choudhry outlined the fundamental nature of populist movements and why they are viewed with such trepidation by governance scholars around the world.

Essentially, a populist movement gathers a groundswell of support from the general sentiment that a country’s political institutions are no longer serving the will of the people. It is not based on rigid political parties or unifying ideologies.

Populism is grounded in an emotional response to the more frustrating aspects of government in not being able to fix real problems that citizens confront on a daily basis.

In light of the emotional and idiosyncratic nature of populist uprisings, Professor Sujit Choudhry does not think it is helpful in the least to speculate about all of the ways that they could gain traction and topple a government. Political winds shift so quickly in most countries that it would be an exhausting exercise to try to quash the slightest whiff of populist rebellion.

Professor Sujit Choudhry’s Warnings Against Drifting Away From the Timeless Nature of a Constitution

One of the consequences that Professor Choudhry cautions against is creating a constitution that is fixated on preserving specific political parties of a country. While this may seem like the natural reaction to counter the untethered whims of populist groups, it can result in institutionalizing a political structure that may not be meant to last through history.

The beauty of democratic elections is that they provide a chance for people to change the dynamic of their representatives at frequent intervals. While this rarely results in a complete overhaul of specific political parties, the public can usher in a wave of change towards a more pluralistic society without memorializing this structure in a constitution.

In order for a constitution to outlive the political cycles of a country, it needs to be regarded as a baseline for designing the broad confines of governmental institutions.

The constitution should confine itself to the principles of equality and access to justice that allow a society to live in general peace. As soon as the constitution wades into establishing more detailed laws and regulations, its ability to guide a country over decades is drastically reduced.

Picture a constitution as the framework of a government instead of the individual offshoots of political organizations from the country’s main institutions.

Professor Sujit Choudhry’s Experience in Advising on Constitutional Design Matters for Government Leaders

When government leaders need advice on how to draft constitutional provisions or create a constitution from scratch, Professor Sujit Choudhry is one of the first resources they turn to.

He focuses on aiding countries that are trying to come out on the other side of a major conflict and advocates for constitutional protections that will hopefully allow their newly formed governmental institutions to withstand any future attempts at dismantling them.

Professor Choudhry describes this important work as essentially a peace-keeping mission because he contends that a well-written constitution has the power to prevent a government from waging war against its people or taking away their essential rights.

He trains the future class of comparative constitutional experts in his law school lectures as a professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

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