Constitutional Design for Divided Societies

Issue Date April 2004
Volume 15
Issue 2
Page Numbers 96-109
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Scholarly experts can be more helpful to democratic constitution-writers in ethnically divided countries by formulating specific recommendations than by overwhelming them with a barrage of options. Especially the following deserve the highest priority and should be the points of departure in constitutional negotiations: elections by proportional representation (specifically, closed-list proportional representation in not overly large districts), a parliamentary form of government, a cabinet in which power-sharing is prescribed in ethnic or partisan terms, a constructive vote of no confidence, a head of state elected by parliament or whose office is combined with the prime minister’s, federalism and decentralization, a federal chamber that is less powerful than the lower house and in which the smaller states are only slightly over-represented, publicly funded autonomous schools for religious groups, and little or no use of the referendum.

About the Author

Arend Lijphart is Research Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of many studies of democratic institutions, the governance of deeply divided societies, and electoral systems.

View all work by Arend Lijphart