LEGS, or "Law-Engaged Graduate Students," meets during the academic year to discuss a work in progress by one of our Graduate Associates. Academic papers, dissertation proposals, and dissertation chapters have been presented at these meetings, to an audience of fellow graduate students.
Precis: "Over the past two decades, a series of democratically-elected governments in Latin America and East Central Europe have used the law to disable accountability institutions and concentrate power in the executive, transforming consolidated democracies into "autocratic legalist" regimes. While several scholars have identified isolated instances of institutional change to explain these developments, they have often failed to note larger patterns of institutional change within and among cases. In this paper, I develop a new conceptual framework to clarify these patterns. I argue that autocratic legalist regimes consistently rely on three strategies to concentrate power in the executive. They colonize independent institutions with political allies; they circumvent opposition-controlled institutions by establishing parallel institutions subordinate to the executive; and they evade accountability institutions by creating legal grey areas within which the executive can exercise unchecked power. I substantiate my theory with evidence from Venezuela, Hungary, and Poland, and point to a set of red flags observers can use to tell whether a democracy is on the path to becoming an autocratic legalist regime."
Will Freeman is a 1st year PhD student in the Department of Politics. He is primarily interested in understanding how autocratic legalist regimes in Latin America and East Central Europe gain, consolidate, and lose power. Before coming to Princeton, Will earned a B.A. in Political Science from Tufts University (2016) and was a Fulbright Grantee at the Central European University in Hungary (2016-17).