The Constitutional Foundations of Democratic Consolidation

José Antonio Cheibub


In this article, I discuss the role of political institutions in democratic consolidation. Regarding the forms of democratic government, I like to think that there are essentially two: those with a separation of powers and those that require assembly confidence. The first are typical presidential democracies, systems with constitutions that prescribe a fixed term in office for both a popularly and independently elected president and a congress. The second are the parliamentary (and semi-presidential) democracies, in which the government must be at least tolerated by a parliamentary majority in order to exist. I will therefore focus on the effect of political institutions, whether parliamentary or presidential, on democratic consolidation. 

I start by briefly reviewing the earlier debate on the relationship between democratic form of government and consolidation. I then discuss what I see as two challenges we face today to advance the study of democratic consolidation: its proper definition and conceptualization, an to understand how the phenomena of democratic breakdown and consolidation changed since we first started to think about them. I conclude with a few remarks on the kind of advice political scientists can give regarding the best constitutional form for the consolidation of democracy.


Comparative Democratization Newsletter, vol. 12, no. 2, May 2014. Also published in Presidential Power: Presidents and Presidential Politics Around the World, June 18 and 19, 2014.

Published Sep. 29, 2014 5:46 PM - Last modified Oct. 30, 2020 10:34 AM