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Scott Newton

Marx posed (and solved) the riddle of all constitutions when he argued that the advent of liberal democracy revealed the ‘actual people’ as the authors of political order. The Central Asian constitutions sharpen that riddle, because in common with post-Soviet constitutional systems generally, they reveal actual elites, governing networks, as authors. Evident in their serial amendment over the past 25 years (more adjustments than reforms), the Central Asian constitutions remain the instruments, albeit complex and contingent, of those informal networks, shifting but enduring associations of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen organised on the basis of patron–client relations who divide the spoils of office and monopolise the exercise of public authority. Those same systems at the same time exhibit a distinctive mode of performance, of which plebiscitary affirmation (referenda) and outcome-orientated jurisprudence are indicative, in the context of international constitutionalist norms. Soviet in derivation, Central Asian network-cum-performative constitutionalism as a distinct species of the genus poses a radical challenge to the hegemony of liberal constitutionalism.