Conferences and Court Proceedings

This week was full of excitement. On Monday and Tuesday, the Constitution-Building Program hosted a conference of constitutional experts and policymakers on the role of the political opposition in democracies. Specifically, we are interested in how constitutional provisions can empower the opposition to hold the government accountable, promote good governance, and strengthen democracy.

The most interesting aspect of the conference was the range of mechanisms available for empowering the opposition. In Denmark and Latvia, for instance, the opposition can trigger referendums on proposed laws, which might deter the government from passing a particularly controversial or unpopular law. In Armenia, the Constitution limits the governing party or coalition to no more than 2/3 of the seats in the legislature, which is meant to prevent a government from eliminating all meaningful parliamentary opposition and thus avoiding parliamentary scrutiny (Armenia’s constitution also allows for elected representatives to form oversight and investigatory committees with relative ease).

The other significant event this week was a visit to the Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC) on Wednesday. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the KSC is currently hearing a major case involving four prominent Kosovar politicians and former militia leaders. Although the case has yet to reach trial, I was able to observe a status conference. This was my first experience inside a courtroom, and, while the court procedure seemed rather different from that of the United States, it was quite interesting to see the way the proceedings went and how the lawyers presented their positions to the judge. At one point, one defense lawyer alluded to Boris Johnson’s fall from power in the UK, and the judge – to my surprise – responded positively to the reference, even making a little joke himself.

After the excitement of the first few days, I spent the rest of the week completing my research on Montenegro. Additionally, my mom visited me here in Den Haag, the weekend before, and we spent a few days exploring museums and restaurants of different Dutch cities. It felt a little strange showing my mom around cities halfway across the world, but it also revealed to me just how comfortable I have become living in the Netherlands after a month and a half.