From Perverse Checks and Balances to Guardian of the Constitution: The Constitutional Court

  • John W. Schiemann
Part of the Political Evolution and Institutional Change book series (PEIC)


The constitutional court was just one, albeit crucial, element in the MSZMP’s comprehensive efforts to create an interlocking system of perverse checks and balances. The system would have been perverse in that, rather than provide a mechanism to control power, the MSZMP’s system was designed to use multiple institutions to concentrate power in the ruling party, if not in one institution, and permit the regime to elim­inate its more radical opponents and coopt its more moderate ones. The constitutional court was to play an important role in this strategy, as it would provide a veneer of political reform and the rule of law behind which the MSZMP could ban political parties and insulate important features of the socialist system from opposition challenges as the guardian of the “Stalinist” constitution. In the course of early 1989, however, as power slipped from the grasp of the regime to opposition parties, the MSZMP began to view the court in defensive as well as offensive terms. That is, it came to be seen by some worried leaders as an insurance mechanism, as a way for the MSZMP to hedge its bets if they did not perform as well as they hoped and expected in the free elections.1


Political Party Appointment Rule Opposition Parti Parliamentary Election Constitutional Court 
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© John W. Schiemann 2005

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  • John W. Schiemann

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