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Constitutional Design and Democratic Performance

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The article examines the relationship between constitutional design and democratic performance. To do so, it draws on a new data set, containing measures of eight core values of liberal democratic government (accountability, representation, constraint, participation, political rights, civil rights, property rights, minority rights) for 40 country cases over 29 years. It uses pooled cross section time-series regressions to explore the effects of executive-legislative relations, electoral rules and federal-unitary government, while controlling for the contextual conditions of economic wealth, political culture, and the longevity of democratic government itself. The article reviews previous attempts to explore the relationship in order to sharpen the definition of democratic performance, explore key aspects of the research design, and compare the statistical results with the present state of our knowledge. Overall the results tend to support the superior performance of parliamentary over presidential systems, and, in lesser degree, of unitary over federal systems. The performance profiles of proportional representation and plurality electoral systems, on the other hand, appear as distinct but quite evenly matched. But reasons are given for exercising some care with causal inferences, and for applying the results to closer-focus comparative institutional analysis.
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Keywords: constitutions; democracy; institutions; performance; rights

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2002-06-01

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