Paradoxes of Constitutional Politics in the Post-Soviet Space

Constitutional politics in autocratic and hybrid regimes has become an increasingly popular topic in political-science research. The amendment of constitutions in countries with democratic deficits is a commonly identified—although rarely empirically addressed—phenomenon. While it is tempting to disregard the influence of constitutions in autocratic and hybrid regimes and treat them as shams, recent research suggests that the power of constitutional politics in a nondemocratic setting cannot be dismissed so quickly. In line with this research, I argue that constitutions and constitutional politics serve a variety of purposes in countries with democratic deficits—both in substance and in effect. Understanding the different roles of constitutional politics might contribute to our knowledge on why hybrid and autocratic regimes endure and gain legitimacy. Thus, in this Article I aim to assess the extent to which explanations for the frequency and occurrence of constitutional amendments—developed for the democratic context—also apply for constitutional politics in non-democratic regimes, in particular in the post-Soviet area. Based on this, I will discuss the dominant role of constitutional politics in this regional setting, specifically as a power tool for a patrimonial president in Ukraine and as a trigger for democratization in Georgia.

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