Replacing and Amending Constitutions : the Logic of Constitutional Change in Latin America Articles uri icon

publication date

  • December 2012

start page

  • 749

end page

  • 779


  • 4


  • 46


  • Since 1978, all countries in Latin America have either replaced or amended their constitutions. What explains the choice between these two substantively different means of constitutional transformation? This article argues that constitutions are replaced when they fail to work as governance structures or when their design prevents competing political interests from accommodating to changing environments. According to this perspective, constitutions are likely to be replaced when constitutional crises are frequent, when political actors lack the capacity to implement changes by means of amendments or judicial interpretation, or when the constitutional regime has a power-concentrating design. It is further argued that the frequency of amendments depends both on the length and detail of the constitution and on the interaction between the rigidity of the amendment procedure and the fragmentation of the party system. The article provides statistical evidence to support these arguments and discusses the normative implications of the analysis.


  • Law
  • Politics


  • constitutional durability; constitutional replacements and amendments; constitutional crises; institutional design; latin america