How do institutional factors and party characteristics shape parliamentary opposition in EU politics, ask Thomas Persson, Christer Karlsson, Felix Lehmann & Moa Mårtensson in this recently published article. They introduce the idea that opposition can either take the form of expressing critique (e.g., influencing or shaping policy-making) or providing alternatives (e.g., providing different policies or methods), and argue that the strength of oversight mechanisms as well as Euroscepticism of a party determines which form of opposition MPs choose to use. To test this argument, Thomas, Christer, Felix and Moa analyse more than 7,500 statements of MPs Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Sweden and the United Kingdom during plenary sessions and deliberations during European Affairs Committee meetings. The analyses demonstrate that in the absence of strong oversight mechanisms, MPs primarily make use of opposition in form of critique. Additionally, and unsurprisingly, MPs belonging to Eurosceptic parties are champions of opposition both in form of expressing critique and presenting alternatives. Most interestingly, however, the results show that in contrast to members of Eurosceptic parties who engage in oppositional behavior irrespective of institutional contexts, MPs from Europhile parties seem to regard formal oversight mechanisms partly as a substitute for expressing opposition. With these findings, the article provides a more nuanced picture about the drivers of oppositional behavior in EU politics, it prompts future research to take into account the interplay between institutional set-ups and party characteristics when analyzing parliamentary opposition.
In recent years, several governments have tried to limit judicial power with court-curbing policies. Two of the countries that have witnessed constraints of judicial power lately are Hungary and Poland. Analyzing these developments, Aylin Aydin-Cakir’s article introduces the categorization of formal and informal court-cubing and explains why different court-curbing attempts affect judicial independence differently. Aylin argues that public discontent should be higher when the government tries to weaken the judiciary through informal court-curbing (i.e., unconstitutional strategies like unilaterally removing or threatening to remove judges from office). Constraining the judiciary in this way, lacks a solid legal framework, and should more extensively decrease public confidence in the judiciary. By contrast, formal court-cubing such as restructuring the judiciary via constitutional and legal reforms, should not decrease the perceived legitimacy of the ‘new’ constitutional court at least until these legal changes go into effect. Through a high level of public confidence, the judiciary might feel powerful and judges might continue to behave assertively vis-à-vis governmental policies. Employing the innovative synthetic control method, the article demonstrates that informal court-curbing as used by the PiS in Poland has indeed a greater negative impact on judicial independence and on public confidence in the judiciary than Fidesz’s predominantly formal court-curbing in Hungary. This study, thus, presents public confidence as an important moderating factor that can mitigate the overall negative impact of court-curbing on the independence of the judiciary.