Democracy and (the essential content of) fundamental rights: Marching in line or precarious balancing act?

Schaks, Nils

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Document Type: Article
Year of publication: 2019
The title of a journal, publication series: Law, Democracy & Development
Volume: 23
Page range: 299-330
Place of publication: Bellville
Publishing house: Faculty of Law, University of the Western Cape
ISSN: 2077-4907
Publication language: English
Institution: School of Law and Economics > Öffentl. Recht (Juniorprofessur) (Schaks 2015-)
Subject: 340 Law
Individual keywords (German): Demokratie , Grundrechte , Deutschland , Südafrika , Verfassungsgericht ,Gewaltenteilung , Meinungsfreiheit , Verfassungsvergleich , Wesensgehalt
Keywords (English): German Constitution , Constitutional comparison , Essential content of a right , Freedom of expression , Separation of powers , Democratic backsliding , Counter-majoritarian dilemma , Constitutional courts , Democracy , Fundamental rights
Abstract: This article addresses the question of how democracy and fundamental rights interplay, and compares German and South African law for this purpose. The author argues that democracy requires and presupposes fundamental rights, but that these two values do not always align, and then deals with the question of how to reconcile democracy and fundamental rights in case of conflict. The potential conflict between the two values is sometimes reflected in the relationship between Parliaments as the embodiment of democracy and the Constitutional Courts as the embodiments of fundamental rights (the so- called “counter-majoritarian dilemma”). However, the author rejects the recent critique by some scholars that the German Federal Constitutional Court structurally exceeds its powers vis-à-vis the German Parliament and that there is a permanent judicial overreach. On the contrary, the author argues that Constitutional Courts do not have sufficient tools to counter a democratic backsliding, i.e. the incremental erosion of democracy. Since the author considers democratic backsliding to be a greater and more acute threat to democracy than judicial overreach, he presents the view that the guarantee of the essential content of a right delineates the minimum of a fundamental right in a democratic society. This view is explained using freedom of expression as example.
Additional information: Online-Ressource

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