The Unanimity Rule and Religious Fractionalisation in the Polish-Lithuanian Republic

Posted: 26 Mar 2008 Last revised: 7 Sep 2008

See all articles by Dalibor Rohac

Dalibor Rohac

Legatum Institute; King's College London

Date Written: March 1, 2008


This paper analyzes the role of the unanimity rule - known as liberum veto - in medieval Poland. We argue that the primary effect of the liberum veto was that it secured religious freedom and established domestic peace in an otherwise deeply divided and fractionalised country. What is more, this institution succeeded in doing so during an era which was characterized by violent religious conflicts and rise of absolutist monarchies throughout the European continent. Even after 1652, when the liberum veto seemed to have practically paralyzed the decision-making of Polish-Lithuanian parliament, there were still reasons-related to religious issues - why its use could have been preferable to less inclusive voting rules. It can be argued, however, that the use of unanimity was not warranted in questions related to defense, especially in situations of national emergency, although it is questionable to which extent the sole presence of the liberum veto was susceptible to bring about the demise of the Polish-Lithuanian Republic.

Keywords: Polish-Lithuanian Republic, Voting rules, Unanimity, Religious fractionalisation

JEL Classification: D72, N43

Suggested Citation

Rohac, Dalibor, The Unanimity Rule and Religious Fractionalisation in the Polish-Lithuanian Republic (March 1, 2008). Constitutional Political Economy, Vol. 19, No. 2, pp. 111-128, Available at SSRN:

Dalibor Rohac (Contact Author)

Legatum Institute ( email )

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King's College London ( email )

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