Posts tagged constitutional design

I would not look to the United States Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (via tofias)

If you were drafting a new constitution (as they’re doing in Libya and Egypt), what would you do?

For starters, you might start with some considerations on drafting a constitution from this interview (in The Christian Science Monitor) with Andrew Reynolds, a noted constitutional engineer.

How do you fix a problem like Libya?

In the past, I’ve given my POL 102 classes (and also my upper-division democratization seminars) an assignment that asked them to draw up a new constitution for Oz. I handed out a packet of a post-transition (after the Wizard is deposed) Oz, a description of the country’s current political situation (mostly based on Gregory Maguire’s Wicked), and asked them to write a brief outline for a new constitutional system looking at three basic components:

  1. An executive system: They could choose between presidential, parliamentary, and semi-presidential.
  2. An electoral system: They could choose between simple plurality (“first-past-the-post”), majoritarian (the French runoff system), proportional representation, mixed-member system, and preferential voting system (this year, I decided to toss in the uniquely Chilean binomial system). If they choose presidential or semi-presidential, they would have to choose two electoral systems (one for the executive, one for the legislature).
  3. State structure: They could chose between unitary, federal, or devolved state.

These are group projects of 4-5 students, who write a two-page paper and give a short in-class presentation “pitching” their constitutional framework. Essentially, I ask them to become “constitutional engineers” for a day.

This year, thanks to the Arab Spring, we can use real world cases. So today my students are presenting sketches of the kind of constitutional system they think is best for a new democratic Libya. I’m very intrigued to see what they come up with.

If you don’t think political scientists really do this kins of “hands-on” activity, here’s a short article from The Christian Science Monitor interviewing UNC’s Andrew Reynolds about his advice for post-transition constitutions for the Arab Spring countries. The issue isn’t just academic for Reynolds (one of the discipline’s premier constitutional engineers): He’s currently in Libya for this very purpose, having only recently left Tunisia.

"How to draft a constitution: six steps for the Middle East" | Christian Science Monitor

A few weeks ago, The Christian Science Monitor had this nice article on some issues involving drafting a new constitution.

My students (in POL102 and POL329) will be working on constitutional design assignment soon, so we’ve been thinking about recent events in the Middle East. While my POL102 students will work narrowly on questions of institutional design (executive-legislative relations, electoral system, and federal-unitary systems), my POL329 students have to also think about the broader issues involved in drafting a new constitution in the context of a transition to democracy.

The article includes comments from an experienced “constitutional engineer”: Andrew Reynolds (UNC).

I used to give students in my courses on democratic transitions a group assignment to design a constitution for a recently democratizing Oz. This semester, in collaboration with a colleague, I used it in my introduction to comparative politics course. We did a controlled semi-experiment (with pre- and post-tests), and hope to have some results written (and published) within the next several months.

I designed a little “constitutional design” simulation based around the fictional land of Oz (specifically, the Oz found in Gregory Maguire’s Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West). The whole thing goes along w/ a country dossier I cooked up. Basically, students have to design an institutional framework for a formerly “sultanistic” regime that could, w/ luck & pluck, transition successfully to a democracy.

I designed a little “constitutional design” simulation based around the fictional land of Oz (specifically, the Oz found in Gregory Maguire’s Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West). The whole thing goes along w/ a country dossier I cooked up. Basically, students have to design an institutional framework for a formerly “sultanistic” regime that could, w/ luck & pluck, transition successfully to a democracy.