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Regular version of the site

Article

Beyond “unwinding”: Constitutional review strategies in consociations

Nations and Nationalism. 2020. Vol. 26. No. 3. P. 594-610.

This article contributes to the emerging literature on the role of constitutional courts in consociational democracies. While most works have approached the topic from the perspective of regime dynamics, this analysis focuses on how courts relate to the constitutions they are mandated to enforce. Beyond addressing the empirical question of what choices courts make in their balancing between universal values and stability, this article also investigates how courts do this balancing. Through the analysis of seven cases from two consociations, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Northern Ireland, I argue that courts embrace specific interpretive approaches (proportionality analysis, purposive interpretation, and the political question doctrine) to reconcile the ideas of constitutional supremacy and respect for political agreements. The analysis also demonstrates how—by their nature political—framework agreements establishing consociational settlements become primary reference points for interpreting constitutional documents.