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Implementing New Constitutions Workshop

From 13-14 October 2017, Chicago Law School will be holding a workshop on 'From Parchment to Practise: Implementing New Constitutions'. I will be presenting a paper on "Vehicle for Democratic Transition or Authoritarian Straightjacket? Constitutional Regression and Risks in the Struggle to Change Myanmar’s Constitution". 
The abstract of my paper is as follows: How hard is it to change a constitution that was drafted by an authoritarian regime to legitimate a new political order? What strategies might democratic actors adopt to change such a constitution, and what risks may they face? Democratic actors in Myanmar who seek to change the 2008 Constitution currently face these dilemmas. In the first part of my chapter I introduce the contours and practice of Myanmar’s 2008 Constitution in order to demonstrate the new political order that was set in place by the former military regime. I then explore the different strategies that have been used to change the 2008 Constitution – formal constitutional amendment proposals in 2013-2015; informal constitutional change through judicial interpretation in the Constitutional Tribunal; and informal constitutional change in the form of the legislative innovation of the Office of the State Counsellor. These strategies may come with particular risks. I identify the various risks democratic actors have suffered for these attempts at constitutional reform. In particular, I highlight the ways in which constitutional regression has occurred, such as the undemocratic proposals put to a vote in parliament as part of the formal constitutional amendment process. I conclude by considering the broader implications for the study of risk-taking and constitutional change in transitional regimes.

The broader program is available here 'From Parchment to Practise'.


      • Session I: The First Period Problem and a Classic Case
        • Welcome
        • Tom Ginsburg and Aziz Huq, The Theory and Practice of Constitutional Implementation
          • Commentator: Rosalind Dixon, University of New South Wales 
        • Sandy Levinson, Texas, The First Period Problem in the United States
          • Commentator: Eric Slauter, University of Chicago American Studies
      •  - 
      • Coffee Break
      •  - 
      • Session II The United States
        • Alison LaCroix, Chicago: The “Long Founding Moment” and period 1 ½ in the US
          • Commentator: James Pfander, Northwestern Law
        • Erin Delaney, Northwestern Law, Institutions and Inspiration: Judicial Design and Constitutional Transformation
          • Commentator: Federica Carugati, Indiana University, Ostrom Workshop
      •  - 
      • Room 203 | Faculty Workshop
      • Lunch
      •  - 
      • Session III Transformation
        • Ros Dixon and Theunis Roux, UNSW: Marking Constitutional Transitions: the Law and Politics of Constitutional Implementation in South Africa
          • Commentator: Richard Joseph, Northwestern University Political Science
        • Madhav Khosla, Harvard Society of Fellows: India’s First Period
          • Commentator: Raj Gandhi, University of Illinois
      •  - 
      • Coffee Break
      •  - 
      • Session IV Challenges
        • Melissa Crouch, UNSW: Authoritarian Transformation in Myanmar
          • Commentator: Dan Slater, University of Michigan Political Science
        • Claudia Flores et al, Women’s Rights and the Challenge of Social Transformation
          • Commentator: Mary Anne Case, University of Chicago Law School
    • Saturday, October 14, 2017
        •  - 
        • Continental Breakfast
        •  - 
        • Session V: Cases
          • James Gathii, Loyola Law School: Kenya
            • Commentator: Tom Ginsburg, University of Chicago Law School
          • Tom Ginsburg, University of Chicago Law School, Transitional Authoritarian Constitutions 
            • Commentator: Jeff Staton, Emory University Political Science
        •  - 
        • Session VI: Cases
          • Daniel Abebe, University of Chicago Law: Ethiopia
            • Commentator: Aziz Huq, University of Chicago Law
          • Diego Gonzales, Constitutional Court of Colombia, The Early Constitutional Court
            • Commentator: Leopoldo Fergusson, Los Andes University, Economics
        •  - 
        • Room 203| Faculty Workshop
        • Lunch


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