Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute

A image of a book. The title, in Cyrillic, reads, "The constitution of the Kazakstan republic."



Constitutionalism and Authoritarianism in Central Asia: A Panel Discussion



This event is online only.

The panel will discuss the political and constitutional development in Central Asia by positioning the complex relationship between constitutionalism and authoritarianism at the center. The aim is to explore through a selection of specific topics the ways in which constitutionalism, although traditionally associated with democracy-building and democratic consolidation, can be manipulated to serve an authoritarian state-building. Professor Justin Frosini will discuss the role of constitutionalism in contemporary non-democratic regimes by introducing the concept of “constitutionalism with adjectives,” and exploring its applicability to Central Asia. Professor Bill Bowring will explore attempts at a constitutional reset in Central Asia, and analyze the dramatic effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine from 2014 onwards. Dr. Armen Mazmanyan will discuss the role of Constitutional Courts in Central Asian politics by exposing the often inflated expectations from these institutions in the context of authoritarian regimes. Dr. Svetlana Chetaikina will address the role of elections in Central Asian countries, including how elections influence other institutions and processes within the constitutional framework, the connection between elections and referenda, as well as the phenomena of early and “late” elections in the region. Moderated by Alexander Cooley and Carna Pistan.



Bill Bowring is a Professor of Law at Birkbeck College, University of London since 2006. He previously taught at the University of East London, Essex University, and London Metropolitan University. As a practising barrister since 1974, he has represented applicants before the European Court of Human Rights in many cases since 1992, especially against Turkey and Russia. He has acted as a consultant and expert for the United Nations, Council of Europe, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), European Union, and the UK Government. He has over 130 publications on topics of international law, human rights, minority rights, Russian law, and philosophy. His second monograph is Law, Rights, and Ideology in Russia: Landmarks in the Destiny of a Great Power (Routledge 2013). In 2017 he was conferred a Fellow of the Academy of Social Science, in recognition of his work on legal and human rights issues in Russia, both in practice and in theory. In 2021 his first, 2008, monograph, The Degradation of the International Legal Order: the Rehabilitation of Law and the Possibility of Politics was published in Russian translation by NLO Publishers, Moscow.

Svetlana Chetaikina is a Researcher at the University of Padova, an Affiliated Researcher at the Center for Constitutional Studies and Democratic Development in Bologna, and serves as a Legal Analyst of election observation missions deployed by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.  Since 2015, she frequently provided a legal assessment of electoral and referendum legislation and processes in Central Asia, including during the recent constitutional referenda in Kyrgyzstan (2021)  and Kazakhstan (2022). She obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Padova and her LL.M from Central European University in Budapest. She has published on international standards for democratic elections, electoral rights as well as the participation of women.

Justin Frosini is an Associate Professor of Comparative Public Law at Bocconi University (Milan), Adjunct Professor of Constitutional Law at SAIS Europe, and director of the Center for Constitutional Studies and Democratic Development (Bologna). He is also a co-coordinator of the International Association of Constitutional Law research group devoted to constitutionalism in illiberal democracies. He has published extensively in the field of comparative constitutional law with particular attention to federalism, regionalism and devolution, Brexit and the European Union, constitutional justice, forms of government, democratic transitions, and democratic development. He is the author of two books, Constitutional Preambles. At a Crossroads between Politics and Law (2012) focused on the legal value of constitutional preambles, and From parliamentary sovereignty to popular sovereignty (2020) focused on Brexit and the multiplicity of its causes, and the co-editor of a special issue “Constitutional oxymorons,” addressing constitutionalism in illiberal democracies (2020).

Armen Mazmanyan teaches at the American University of Armenia. He holds a Ph.D. in Law from the European University Institute (2009), an LL.M from the University of Illinois (2002), and a graduate law degree from the Yerevan State University (1998). His research focuses on constitutionalism and democratic development from a comparative perspective and integration processes in post-Soviet countries. He has authored a dozen of peer-reviewed articles on constitutionalism and particularly on constitutional courts in post-Soviet countries. He has also advised on constitution-building and elections in over fifteen countries, mostly in the former communist world.


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