Increasingly, scholars and commentators have voiced concern over the rise of populist politics. A principal focus of this concern has been constitutionalism: the processes, constraints, and foundational understandings of constitutional government. Populists appear to flout these processes, constraints, and understandings, or alternatively harness them to their ends. In response, critics accuse populists of undermining liberal democracy. These arguments frequently focus on the role of the courts in relation to the popularly elected branches of government. Are the courts frustrating the will of the people? Are the judges overstepping their role? These arguments echo longstanding debates in legal and political theory over the justification and limits of judicial review but now voiced with much greater force, as though constitutional democracy itself were at stake.

The international conference will renew the debate over the relationship between constitutionalism and democracy, now in the light of populist politics. It will do so especially in relation to two countries at the heart of the debate (Hungary; Poland) but with comparisons to other contexts in which populism is gaining a foothold. The symposium will clarify what we ought to mean by “populism” and what - if anything - is wrong with it (why isn’t populism simply democracy?). It will explore the consequences of that analysis for the theory and practice of a truly democratic constitutionalism. 

Detailed Program

For abstracts click on the titles

All Welcome *** March 6th, 2:30-4:30 pm (Victoria Colloquium) *** Faculty of Law, the Murray and Anne Fraser Building, Room 152  

Keynote Address: Richard Bellamy, University College of London (UCL)

 When is Democracy Constitutional? On the Relations between Political, Populist and Popular Constitutionalism 


*** March 6th, Conference Dinner 6 pm *** University Club UVic (Registration Mandatory)

*** Registration mandatory ***

Last minute registration can be accepted, please send us an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with the subject line : LATE REGISTRATION CEDOD


*** March 7th, 8:30-5:30 pm *** Faculty of Law, the Murray and Anne Fraser Building, Room 152  

*** Registration and Continental Breakfast: 8:30 - 9:00 am          

A. Understanding the Populist Challenge

Jeremy Webber, Faculty of Law, University of Victoria, Cutting our Way through the Thicket:  Populism, its Affinities, its Consequences, and our ResponsesDaniel Weinstock, Faculty of Law (McGill), Global Responses to Populism and its CausesPablo Ouziel, Centre for Global Studies (UVic) Revisiting Spain’s Populist Moment: Left/Right Populism and Beyond - Chair: Hester Lessard, Faculty of Law, University of Victoria

*** Morning Break 

B. Populism, Courts, and the Rule of Law

Silvia Suteu, Faculty of Laws, University College of London (UCL), Friends or Foes? The Uncertain Relationship of Eternity Clauses and Populism , János Mécs, Faculty of Law, Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE), Populism, elections, legal paradigm – the interpretative struggle of the Hungarian constitutional court in electoral matters,  Adam Czarnota, Faculty of Law, University of New South Wales (UNSW), Between Liberalism and Populism: Central-Eastern European States on the Road to Post-Conventional Constitutionalism; - Chair: Donald Galloway, Faculty of Law, University of Victoria

*** Lunch Break  

C. Who is the People in Populism?

Oliver Schmidtke, Department of Political Science (UVic), Populism as an  Illiberal Response to the Crisis of Democracy: Exploring the Link between Popular Sovereignty and Liberal Rights; Peter Kraus, University of Augsburg, Populism versus Popular Republicanism on the Battleground of Diversity; John Borrows, Faculty of Law (UVic), Culture Cops and Cancel Cultures: Indigenous Peoples & Populism - Chair: Rebeccah Nelems, Graduate Student Fellow at the Centre for Global Studies, University of Victoria

*** Afternoon Break 

D. Populist Democracy and Supra-National Norms 

Eszter Bodnár, Faculty of Law, Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE), The Role of International Institutions in the Protection of Constitutionalism; John Erik Fossum, ARENA Centre for European, University of Oslo (UiO)Populism and the Reform of EU Institutions, Thibault Biscahie, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Politics, York University, The Democratic Limits of “Anti-Populism, - Chair: Keith Cherry, Graduate Student Fellow at the Centre for Global Studies, University of Victoria

*** March 8th, 8:30-1:00 pm *** Faculty of Law, the Murray and Anne Fraser Building, Room 152 

*** Continental Breakfast: 8:30 - 9:00 am          

E. A Democratic Rule of Law? 

Zoltán Pozsár-Szentmiklósy, Faculty of Law, Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE), Informal, Democratic Structures and the Control of the Central Political Power,  Patricia Cochran, Faculty of Law (UVic), Jurisdictional Relationships; Michał Stambulski, Centre for Legal Education and Social Theory, University of Wrocław, The (Im)Possibility of Populist Jurisprudence. Lessons from Poland - Chair: Kathryn Chan, Faculty of Law, University of Victoria

*** Morning Break 

F. Responding to Populism’s Democratic Challenge

Colin Macleod, Department of Philosophy (UVic), Demos or Demons: Do Populist Majorities Threaten Democracy?; Hoi Kong, Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia, Colonialism, Constituent Power and Referendums: When is Popular Sovereignty not Populist?Kristen Rundle, University of Melbourne, Populism, Constitutionalism, and the Administrative State - Chair: Cindy Holder, Department of of Philosophy, University of Victoria

*** Closing Comments 


 The Centre for Global Studies, the Faculty of Law, the Europe Canada Network Initiative Canada-Europe Dialogues on Democracy ( CEDoD) and the Cedar Trees Institute (CTI) at the University of Victoria, the Faculty of Law at the Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) and the Research Group “Constitutional Populism: Friend or Foe of Constitutional Democracy” at the University of New South Wales, Sydney.


This international conference is co-financed by the Erasmus+ Program of the European Union, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), the Faculty of Law at the Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE), the Australian Government through the Australian Research Council and

the University of Victoria: the Faculty of Law, the Centre for Global Studies, Vice President Research Office, Faculty of Humanities and the Faculty of Social Sciences.

Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / 250-4724990


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