Author Interview: Comparative Government


Dragoljub POPOVIĆ

School of Law, Union University, Belgrade

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Q.1: Tell us a little bit about the book

Its title is traditional – Comparative Government. The first edition of the book had a subtitle, which I decided to remove. It was for the most part prepared in the library of the Swiss Institute of Comparative Law in Lausanne, where I live, and had a classroom début in Belgrade, where I did not teach the entire course. The invitation to teach a whole course in Creighton University at Omaha (Nebraska) USA provided me an excellent opportunity to learn reactions and comments from the students who had enrolled in the course. They were useful for the second edition, which is to appear in the Edward Elgar Publishing series on constitutional and administrative law. It preserved the general approach and the main scheme of the volume, but substantial changes have been incorporated into the text.

Q2: What inspired you to take up this project?

A teacher, above all. My professor, Miodrag Jovičić, was the most prominent name in the area of comparative constitutional law in my country of origin – Serbia. His book on great constitutional systems is still highly appreciated, although it has been almost 20 years since he left us. I wanted to follow my professor, but also – being in my sixties – to compete with him to some extent. My book is different from my professor's volume in several aspects e.g. in the approach to the topic, in classifying the forms of government, or in treating the judiciary and not only what may be labelled as political branches of government etc.

The other inspiration lies in the fact that I have always been attached to the area of organisation of power as a part of Constitutional Law, whereas my career took me to the human rights, because I spent ten years as a judge at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (France). Once my mandate at the ECtHR was over I almost immediately returned to the topic of organisation of power.

Q3: Whose work was influential on you throughout the course of the project?

It was Prof. Jovičić who influenced me from the very beginning. However, many contemporary authors provided sources of inspiration. I was mostly attracted by the authors who express their thoughts easily and manage to entertain the reader. If I am to mention a name that would certainly be Mark Tushnet, but I was also attracted by the authors writing in French and German, like Lauvaux and von Bogdandy. The style is what I have always admired. For instance, I was fond of Mary-Ann Glendon's book on comparative legal traditions. I would like to add that one of the characteristic features of my book lies in the existence of a certain balance of foreign influences on the author, for they come from different languages. It is true that the English language enjoys preponderance worldwide, but there are also significant academic contributions in other languages, which should be consulted.

Q4: What challenges did you face in writing the book?

The book is a manual for students and the main challenge was to make it not only useful, but also attractive in the sense that a student who attended my course should be tempted to return to the text of the book whenever a question occurs that may fall within the area covered by the volume. The book is therefore also to be used after completion of university studies and its task is to be helpful to lawyers confronted with foreign law and systems of government different from the one in the lawyer's national law.

Q5: What do you hope to see as the book’s contribution to academic discourse and to constitutional or public law more broadly?

I shall reiterate the previous stance – the book is primarily designed for students. Therefore my main task was to classify the forms of government existing in the world in a clear-cut manner that would be easy to understand. Nevertheless, the classification of the forms of government is also one of the contributions to academia, which in my humble view overcomes its basic purpose of introducing students to the topic of comparative government. To provide an example, the book treats the power-sharing form of government in divided societies as one among equal i.e. at the same footing with for instance, presidential form of government. That may be subject to criticism, but again discussing with students, I found them fairly receptive of such an approach. A reader of the book should be able to understand the form of government in any country in the world by retaining and applying the scheme followed in the volume.

Of course there are countries nowadays which, for various reasons, do not follow any of the patterns of government discussed in the volume. Some of those have nevertheless found place in the structure of the book as an exception, like China for instance. That has also been the case with the relatively new phenomenon of supra-national government, for which the European Union serves as a functioning model.

Q6: What’s next?

Now, first and foremost I would like to teach my course and try to introduce further improvements in the text of the volume on the grounds of teaching experience. As far as the writing is concerned, it is most likely that I shall return to human rights and especially to the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights. I intend to commit myself to the research of the dialogue of jurisdictions i.e. the relations of the judiciary in new democracies and the ECtHR.