Constitutional Reform in Europe and Recourse to the People
Forthcoming in: J. Gerkrath, & X. Contiades (eds.), Participatory Constitutional Change: The people as amenders of the Constitution, Ashgate Publishing Ltd.
18 Pages Posted: 30 Oct 2015
Date Written: October 27, 2015
In this chapter, I will look at one recent tendency in constitutional politics, that is, an (possibly increased) emphasis on a recourse to popular participation in the reforming of constitutional orders. There are now quite some examples in contemporary Europe where constitutional revision and amendment is orchestrated in such a way as to include the voice of the people. A transversal set of arguments in these projects of constitutional revision is that they provide an explicit response to civic discontent, structural democratic deficiencies, and that reforms can only be successful if citizens and/or civil society are able to participate. In the chapter I want to, first, discuss different degrees of sensibility in constitutional theory to forms of inclusion and civic participation in constitutional politics, concisely engaging with the dimensions of constitutional subjectivity and forms of collective autonomy. I will search for these dimensions in what I will call legal, political, popular, and democratic understandings of constitutionalism. In a second step, I will turn to a number of recent examples of citizen involvement in constitution-making in the cases of Iceland, Ireland, and Romania. Finally, I will conclude that the recourse to the people is often more apparent than real, and that only in few instances civic participation in constitutional politics lives up to the requirements set by normative democratic theory.
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