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Economic Effects of Post-Socialist Constitutions 25 Years from the Outset of Transition

The Constitutional Political Economy Approach


Katarzyna Metelska-Szaniawska

This book focuses on the nexus between constitutions adopted by post-socialist countries of Europe and Asia after 1989 and economic transition in the region. It takes the perspective of Constitutional Political Economy and argues for the role of constitutions as commitment-enhancing mechanisms for political decision makers in the field of post-socialist economic reforms. For the first time in economic studies of constitutions this book employs the synthetic control method – a novel empirical approach allowing to account for endogeneity and causality issues. The blend of theory (including evolutionary insights) and empirical results allows to formulate recommendations for constitution drafters, emphasizing the role of factual constitutional court independence for successful economic reforms.
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Chapter 2. Post-socialist constitutions in a nutshell


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Chapter 2.  Post-socialist constitutions in a nutshell

Following the fall of socialism (or communism), it became impossible for countries referred to in this book as post-socialist to function on the basis of their socialist (communist) constitutions. The adoption of new legal acts providing fundaments for creating new constitutional systems – the rule of law, separation of powers, civil society or nation’s sovereignty – became a necessity. As already mentioned, this period of post-socialist constitution-drafting has sometimes been referred to as a “gigantic natural experiment” (Elster 1991, p. 449).

The adoption of post-socialist constitutions took place in the period 1990–2011, with greatest intensity between 1990 and 1996. Details of this process are presented in Table 2, which provides not only the dates when these constitutions were adopted but also when they were further amended in the period until 2013. Serbia and Croatia adopted new constitutions in 1990 although at that time they still constituted components of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia29. The last country to adopt its first post-socialist constitution during the 1990’s was Ukraine (in 1996)30. Hungary operated on the basis of its numerously amended 1949 constitution throughout most of the transition period, adopting a new constitution as late as in 2011. One country of the region – Latvia – did not adopt a new constitution after 1989, returning to its 1922 constitution (with several significant amendments).

Table 2:  Constitutions in post-socialist countries of Europe and Asia

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