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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1998, Vol. 1 No. 2 .

Democracy at Dawn
Frederick Quinn

(College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1998)
250pp. Index. Hb. ISBN 0-89096-786-5. 429.95.

This book is a collection of notes and reflections on what the author calls the decade of constitutionalism in Central and Eastern Europe and parts of the former Soviet Union drawn from his work and visits as head of the Rule of Law programs of the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), created by the OSCE. As such it provides insights into the challenges facing those drafting constitutions and the judiciary ranging from uncertainty concerning the boundaries of the state, political and military conflict to disregard for the rule of law and constitutional provisions which give wide discretion and powers to political inumbents and the state. The latter is a greater problem in the new republics of the East. There is much criticism of the OSCE bureaucracy, creeping centralism and the personal ambitions of its senior officials. Details of a mission to Chechnya are useful but focus on procedures and organisation to the detriment of analysis or description of the actual conflict and how it might be resolved. As with other issues on the book, there is little discussion of outcomes or follow-up to work engaged in. The concluding essay on the rule of law is useful as it highlights the variety of problems with respect to the rule of law and illustrates differences across the region from Poland to Tajikstan. The book is poorly edited, gives scant detail on the substance of his work and shifts uneasily from notes on airports, unsafe flights (confirming rumours of over-crowding etc.), extortion and sharp criticism of the OSCE and its officials to personalities attending various seminars. As such, the book falls between two stools as it does not provide sufficient depth in its treatment of the legal challenges facing the region or as a diary of social reality. It reads as a scattering of images and recollections and, as such, serves as a basic introduction to the region.

Anna Murphy, University College Dublin

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