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Taiwan’s Constitutional Court: Judicial Activism and Politicization in a New Democracy

November 15, 2022

Matt Chang


The Constitutional Court of Taiwan (TCC) has been the subject of extensive research in the field of comparative judicial politics, recognized for its protection of civil rights and curtailment of Taiwan’s authoritarian government in the 1990s. However, the literature does not continue its examination of the Court into the 21st century, and little is known about the TCC’s ongoing role within the new democratic government of Taiwan. My research fills this gap in the literature by examining the activity of the Court over the last two decades and its engagement with constitutional questions. Has the TCC remained activist in the 21st century and continued to impact politics in Taiwan? How do the findings contribute to the scholarship on constitutional courts in new democracies? To examine these questions, I analyzed 548 cases from 1987-2017 by coding Court decisions for variables to track its decision-making over time. I also draw from existing literature to investigate these cases’ context and significance. Preliminary findings suggest that the Court has been politicized and has struggled to assert itself when faced with highly contentious questions regarding the separation of government powers. The TCC instead has focused on expanding individual rights protections and has actively developed Taiwan’s constitution using international laws. My findings suggest that constitutional courts in new democracies can change in role and impact as nations mature, and cannot be categorized dichotomously as either activist or restrained. Additionally, these findings demonstrate the increasing politicization of the Taiwan Constitutional Court in the 21st century.

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Volume 10, Issue 1 (Winter 2022)

Volume 10, Number 1. Winter 2022