Constitutional Transitions to Democracy: Paths and Legacies

Panel Code
Open Panel

Democratic transitions have long been classified into two categories: ruptured and pacted, depending on whether regime change is unilateral or negotiated. Despite their specific actors and modalities, both processes have in common to institutionalize regime change through the reform of fundamental and in particular constitutional norms. This panel seeks to explore the variety of paths through which constitutional reform can proceed and to interrogate their respective legacies from a political, social, and/or legal perspective. We are especially, but not exclusively, interested in empirical cases where the authoritarian constitution was retained rather than replaced in the course of what can be termed a “transition by amendment,” a path which countries such as Chile, Hungary, Indonesia, South Korea and Taiwan engaged in during the 1980s and 1990s.

This panel consequently aims to address two sets of questions about constitutional transitions to democracy:

-First, questions about their processes, including: What does it entail to replace or retain the existing constitution in the course of regime change? Why and when is one path taken over the other? To put it differently, under which conditions do democratic opposition forces accept to keep the authoritarian constitution in place and to revise without repealing its text? Under which conditions do they not?

-Second, questions about their consequences, such as: What are the potential benefits of transitioning by amendment for ruling elites and what are the potential effects on the constitution’s short- as well as long-term legitimacy? Is a revised, but not replaced, constitution more exposed to being contested? Are authoritarian enclaves more likely to be preserved if a new constitution is not adopted and less likely to survive if it is? Does the former path limit and/or constrain the extent of regime change and, if so, in what ways? For instance, is there a relation between the type of constitutional reform enacted and the measures taken in response to demands for redressing past human rights abuses? Do transitions by amendment tend to delay or frustrate transitional justice?

We welcome papers whose analysis is based on comparative or single case studies from any geographical location or historical period.


No accepted papers currently in this panel.