Interactions between Elections and Constitution-Building Processes in Fragile and...

Authors: William Underwood, Sumit Bisarya and Kimana Zulueta-Fülscher

Policy Points: 

  • Those concerned with the design and structuring of transitional political processes should understand the ways in which electoral and constitutional processes interact in order to maximize the benefits, and minimize the risks.
  • The timing and sequencing of elections in relation to constitution-building in the political settlement process are driven largely by the function of elections (often the legitimation of a decision-making body), as well as by the domestic and international political context.
  • While elections and referendums can bring inclusivity and legitimacy to post-conflict constitution-building, their success depends on a number of factors, including the overall state of the institutional framework (and the extent to which the rule of law might be followed) and their design and general context: poorly designed or badly-timed elections/referendums may have significant negative consequences.
  • An underlying agreement between the key political actors is an essential prerequisite for the successful holding of elections and referendums in a post-conflict context but such an agreement might be the result of an incremental process rather than a one-off agreement.
  • There are myriad ways in which electoral and constitution-building processes positively interact. However, the relationship between electoral and constitution-building processes can also have negative consequences.
  • International assistance with electoral, constitution-building and peace processes often involves three different epistemological communities. More coordination is needed between these three communities that should envision themselves contributing collectively to an overarching process of political settlement and the (re-)establishment and legitimation of a stable political order.