Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)




Clay Clemens

Committee Members

Paula Pickering

Christopher Freiman


Perhaps no document better symbolizes a nation-state than a written constitution. In particular, during the unstable period of transition between autocracy and democracy, the investment of political and cultural capital in creating an entirely new constitution reflects an expectation on the part of participants that constitutions can exercise independent and legitimate authority on citizens and government within its jurisdiction. Thus, as constitutions either prologue a period of democratic renewal (e.g South Africa, 1994) or constrain later democratic institutions (e.g. Chile, 1989), they offer important contributions to democratic theory (Mallios). This mixed-methodology study will attempt to explain how these processes used during transitions affect the consolidation of democratic regimes later.

This question is important because, since at least 1945, the political science community has tried to better understand the forces that lead to democratic consolidation, authoritarian breakdown, and regime transition. However, there is significant variation in the conditions and features of democratic transitions, and significant variation in democratic outcomes. As part of contributing to resolving this puzzle, this paper theorizes that the less influence the autocratic regime exerts on the transitional and transitional-constitutional processes, the more democratic the post-transition political system. With better frameworks for these transitions, political scientists can better study democratic theory. Likewise, as international and civil society organizations work to promote accountability, improved insight into methods of democratization can support their policy initiatives.