The Constitutionalization of Democracy

Issue Date October 2023
Volume 34
Issue 4
Page Numbers 36–50
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Recent decades have seen a sharp rise in constitutional provisions regulating core aspects of democracy, including the rules about parties, voting, and elections. The trend is apparent in both democracies and nondemocracies, although democracies tend to constitutionalize slightly more matters. Constitutionalization can help democracy by tying the hands of politicians. Looking at cross-national data, we find that constitutionalizing democracy is correlated with higher levels of democracy. However, some rules have the potential to undermine democracy, particularly in contexts where the military plays a major role in politics. The essay illustrates these dynamics with the case studies of Kenya and Thailand.

About the Authors

Tom Ginsburg

Tom Ginsburg is professor of political science and Leo Spitz Distinguished Service Professor of International Law at the University of Chicago.

View all work by Tom Ginsburg

Mila Versteeg

Mila Versteeg is Henry L. and Grace Doherty Charitable Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Virginia Law School.

View all work by Mila Versteeg