This chapter examines how laws, constitutions, and federalism provide structure to the context of political life. It first considers the importance of constitutions in determining the basic structure of the state and the fundamental rights of citizens that they establish before asking whether the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is Western-centric. It then explores different ways in which states may attempt to realize justice in applying the law, with particular emphasis on differences between Islamic and Western practice. It also discusses the importance of constitutional courts, the ways that the institution of federalism contains the powers of the state and manage diverse societies, and consociationalism as an alternative approach to managing such diversity. Finally, it comments on the increasing legalization of political life.
Richard Corbett and Daniel Kenealy
This chapter examines the democratic credentials of the EU. Beginning with a discussion of the idea of democracy beyond the state, it explores academic debates about whether the EU suffers a ‘democratic deficit’. The chapter evaluates the EU along various dimensions, including how powers are separated and divided within the EU, the extent to which executive accountability is established, and the various mechanisms of representation in the EU. It explores the nature of European elections, the role of European political parties, the role of national parliaments in EU policy-making and recent innovations in the way that the president of the European Commission is chosen. The chapter concludes with a discussion of fundamental rights, values, and the rule of the law in the EU with a particular focus on recent developments in Hungary and Poland.
This chapter examines the democratic credentials of the European Union by asking whether it matches some key features common to many modern democratic systems: representation (whether legislation is adopted by representative assemblies); separation of powers; the executive’s democratic accountability; respect for fundamental rights; and whether competing political parties offer voters genuine choice. The chapter also clarifies some key concepts and terms such as bicameralism, democratic deficit, the European Convention on Human Rights, and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Furthermore, it considers an alternative to representative democracy: the organizing of referenda to settle issues. Finally, it discusses the EU’s provisions for helping national parliaments scrutinize the participation of their government in EU institutions.