Constitution Making and Liberal Democracy: The Role of Citizens and Representative Elites Articles uri icon

publication date

  • May 2020

start page

  • 206

end page

  • 232


  • 1


  • 18

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1474-2640

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1474-2659


  • This article discusses the impact of citizen participation and elite cooperation in constitution-making on the deepening of an already existing electoral democracy. It argues that while direct citizen involvement in the drafting of constitutions may be desirable on normative grounds or necessary for pragmatic reasons, only cooperation among a plurality of elected political representatives at the constitution-making stage is likely to improve the liberal dimension of democracy after the enactment of the new constitution. Inclusive constitutional agreements at the level of representative elites not only establish legal limits on state action but may also provide opposition parties and citizens alike with the means to make institutional constraints on executive power and civil liberties effective. This effect is usually observed during the early years of life of the new constitution, when the balance of power among the political forces that created the constitution tends to remain stable. I find preliminary support for this argument analyzing aggregate data and selected case studies from all episodes of democratic constitution-making in the world between 1900 and 2015.


  • Law
  • Politics


  • constitution making; popular participation; political elites; liberal democracy