Comparative Politics

Authoritarian Constitutionalism

Andrea Pozas-Loyo IIJ-UNAM Mexico
Julio Rios-Figueroa CIDE - Mexico
What is “authoritarian constitutionalism”? How can we know it when we see it? In this paper, we provide a conceptual and analytical framework that addresses both ingredients of this intriguing concept: (1) a regime type commonly known for its tendency to abuse power, with (2) a centuries-old lineage of theories and practices seeking precisely to place limits on how it be used. After discussing different conceptualizations of “authoritarian constitutionalism”, we argue that it properly is a phenomenon that takes place under an authoritarian regime that exhibits institutional constraints on power. We thus distinguish authoritarian constitutionalism from “abusive constitutionalism” (that takes place under democracy) and from “constitutional authoritarianism” (authoritarian regimes where there are no institutional limits on power). We illustrate each one of these categories with examples from Latin American constitutional history.