The present SLSA Blog Series engages with one of the most pressing human rights issues in present-day Europe, that is, the rise of right-wing extremism, and with it, the success of right-wing parties on the extreme side of the political spectrum, including parliamentary representation. The Series places a dedicated focus on constitutional venues such as political party bans, ultimately established to hold up constitutional values, including, most essentially, human rights safeguards. Indeed, minority rights but also basic democratic principles are being threatened by right-wing extremist parties that celebrate first electoral successes in many parts of Europe. This opens wider debates on constitutions as ‘living instruments’ being responsive to societal protest action and also the novel role constitutional courts may assume as the ultimate guardians of human rights. What we may also want to be attentive to in such contexts concerns classical conflicts of rights issues such as parliamentary representation and on the other hand, the right to be protected from discrimination and stereotypisation, often also relating to a group’s human dignity, and in some cases the right to physical integrity.

The topic proposed here necessarily needs to be viewed through socio-legal lenses given the dynamics and reactions that have been unfolding among societal forces but also given the socio-political relevance of right-wing extremism in its institutionalised form. What we are currently observing is a complex amalgam of societal protest, constitutional responses, parliamentary debates, and a growing feeling of powerlessness across societal, parliamentary and governmental structures. To study the depth and complexities around potential responses given by the courts and parliamentary committees, an interdisciplinary but also theoretical approach necessarily needs to inform such inquiry, also owing to the interdependencies of these dynamics.

The contributions benefitted from feedback given by Angela Bourne which was highly appreciated.

Jessika Eichler, affiliated with Law & Anthropology Department, Max Planck Institute