Direct democracy and constitutional change

Supervision: Prof. Dr. Johan Vande Lanotte
Researcher: Dr. Jurgen Goossens
Sponsored by FWO (2016-2019)

DemocracyAuthors and policymakers have indicated that there is a crisis of democracy. At the same time, however, a debate is going on about revitalising democracy through citizen participation. There has particularly been a proliferation of direct democracy to pursue constitutional change. Several referendums took place and randomly selected citizens were involved in innovative projects to rewrite the Constitution. Nevertheless, this wave of citizen participation in shaping constitutional foundations and values, which lies at the heart of democracy, has not yet sufficiently been analysed.

Therefore, this project will conduct a comparative legal analysis regarding the suitability and necessary constraints of popular constitutional law-making, which may be useful for constitutional designers, legislatures, judges and the People themselves. The project will tackle four main topics:

  1.  do citizens have an inalienable right to alter or abolish the Constitution based on popular
    sovereignty and is it democratically legitimate to exclude the People?,
  2. which constitutional topics are suitable to be subjected to direct democracy?,
  3. which procedural safeguards are necessary to enable legitimate and effective popular constitution-making, and which specific
    conditions are necessary to protect the rights of minorities or the interests of federated states?,
    and
  4. what role, if any, should the legislature and the courts have when the People are directly
    involved in changing the Constitution?
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