Political Parties and Public Participation in Constitution Making: Legitimation, Distraction, or Real Influence?
Comparative Politics 53 (3). doi: 10.5129/001041521X15966512980176
21 Pages Posted: 24 Feb 2020 Last revised: 24 Sep 2020
Date Written: April 1, 2021
Over the past three decades, participatory methods of constitution making have gained increasing acceptance, and are now an indispensable part of any constitution-making process. Despite this, we know little about how much public participation actually affects the constitution. This article investigates the impact of participation in two groundbreaking cases: Brazil (1988), South Africa (1996). This analysis demonstrates that public participation has relatively small effects on the text, but that it varies in systematic ways. The theory advanced here posits that party strength (especially in terms of discipline and programmatic commitments) is the key determinant of the effectiveness of public participation. Strong parties may be more effective in many ways, but they are less likely to act on input from the public in constitution-making processes.
Keywords: Constitution-making, public participation, constituent power, Brazil, South Africa, democratic innovations
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