Constitutional Amendment Initiatives

Parliament and the Use of Constitutional Amendment Initiatives
(with Anna Fruhstorfer, Freie Universität Berlin)

While the voter’s reaction to governmental responsiveness has received widespread scholarly attention, little is known about the strategic use of instruments available to opposition actors to gain voter’s support. Recent research has shown that oppositions widely use tools through which they can influence the legislative process and the government to their benefit. Whereas these contributions analyze tools such as parliamentary questions or no-confidence motions that directly address the government, we look at a tool that more broadly targets the system: constitutional amendments. Research has shown that parliamentary proposals to amend the constitution are numerous but have a lower chance of success than cabinet or presidential proposals. We analyze why parliaments introduce already doomed constitutional amendments and why some of them are successful. We argue that parliamentary actors strategically use constitutional amendments, but, that this decision is dependent on the broader institutional context. We argue that both, the separation of power between parliament and government as well as institutional power granted to opposition actors during the policy-making process influence the use of such initiatives. Drawing on a new and unique dataset, we examine the use of constitutional amendment initiatives across 18 post-socialist countries in Central and Eastern Europe between 1990 and 2014. Results show that constitutional amendment initiatives serve as important tool for parliamentary actors to influence their prospective electoral performance. These findings have important implications for understanding opposition behavior and a previously overlooked relationship between constitutional change as strategic instrument and the institutional separation of power between parliament and government.