Law’s rule – Liberia and the rule of law

PhD Seminar
Thursday 31 March 2016

Seminar Room 1.13, Coombs Extension Building (8), Fellows Road, ANU

About the Speaker

Shane Chalmers studied law and international studies as an undergraduate at the University of Adelaide between 2004 and 2010. In 2011, Shane moved to Montreal to undertake a Master of Laws in comparative law and cross-cultural jurisprudence at McGill University, culminating in a critical theoretical reflection on the work of human rights internationally. Inspired by his time at McGill, Shane began his PhD at the ANU at RegNet’s Centre for International Governance and Justice in 2012.

By asking the question, what takes place in the rule of law?, and more specifically, what is taking place in the rule of law in Liberia?, that the thesis undertakes a study of the life of law’s rule in a country that is on the frontline of the global spread of powerful ideologies. With Theodor Adorno’s negative-dialectical philosophy as intellectual guide, and based on fieldwork carried out in Liberia and the United States, the thesis examines how these ideologies—above all capitalism—inform the rule of law, and how the rule of law provides a medium for them to take place.

Comparing courts cross-regionally: Lessons and challenges

Mariana Llanos

Thursday 10 March 2016, 12:00 – 2:00 pm

L.J. Hume Centre, Copland Building (24), 1st Floor, Room 1171, Australian National University

Lunch will be provided at the seminar after the Q&A session.

Abstract: This presentation summarizes the main results of the project “Judicial (In)dependence in New Democracies Courts, Presidents and Legislatures in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa” (SAW, 2011-2015). A starting point in our analysis was the unbalance of power between strong executives / elected power holders, and weak courts, a feature that is common to many new democracies in our regions. The project focused on three potential ways in which elected power holders can affect court independence. The first one concerns how insulated courts are in the constitutional design from political influence, and what their formal powers are. To assess this aspect we constructed an index of formal judicial independence, which was used in Stroh and Heyl (2015) to analyze the creation of West African Constitutional Courts. The second concerns the opposite extreme, that is, the purely informal invasions by power holders to which courts are exposed. The project developed a concept of informal interference and an empirical strategy for its study (Llanos et al, 2015). An “intermediate” path is represented by pseudo-legal actions or actions of transgression of the formal rules of judicial independence. In this respect, we studied the principle of judicial stability, that is, how often and why unlawful dismissals of judges occur in practice. This is the subject of analysis in Llanos et al (in progress). The presentation concludes with remarks on the challenges faced, and the lessons learnt, with this cross-regional research exercise.

Mariana Llanos is a Lead Research Fellow at the GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies in Hamburg, Germany.

Marija Taflaga:

Kenya’s 2007 elections – what went wrong, and why?

ANU School of Politics & International Relations
________________________________________SPIR Seminar Series

Kenya’s 2007 elections – what went wrong, and why?

Jorgen Elklit
Aarhus University

Thursday 3 March 2016, 12:00 – 2:00 pm

L.J. Hume Centre, Copland Building (24), 1st Floor, Room 1171

Lunch will be provided at the seminar after the Q&A session.

International organisations play many different roles during election processes in new and emerging democracies (and in countries hoping to be seen as democracies). These roles—and their impact—become particularly interesting during situations that develop into ‘an electoral crisis’. An electoral crisis is some kind of humanitarian or political (or other) crisis, where administrative or other problems in relation to an electoral process function as the trigger of the crisis. Many such crises have occurred over recent years, but this presentation will focus on the Kenyan case of 2007–08. The tragic violence and ethnic cleansing shocked the world during early 2008. The instrument established jointly by the government of Kenya and international organisations to investigate what went wrong and what should be done to remedy the situation was IREC, the Independent Review Commission. The article demonstrates how international organisations were involved during the electoral process and also makes clear that the considerable amount of international assistance before and during the election was of almost no avail. IREC’s surprising conclusion was that the main problems in the elections were not the finalisation of the vote count and the tabulation or the subsequent presentation of results. One has to look to the country’s ethnic composition and history, to Kenya’s political culture, and to the incompetence of the Electoral Commission of Kenya to understand why the expectations of an exemplary electoral process were turned into such a misery, despite international assistance from the very beginning of the electoral process.

Jorgen Elklit specialises in the study of electoral systems and administration, electoral behaviour, political party membership, and democratization. He has written extensively on these subjects as well as on electoral administration. He has extensive experience since 1990 as an international advisor on elections and electoral systems in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Professor Elklit is a member of the South African Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) responsible for the conduct of the 1994 South African Parliamentary and Provincial Elections. He was also Secretary to the Independent Review Commission (Kenya) April-September 2008

Marija Taflaga,

School of Politics & International Relations