Constitutions, not commitment: international law, diffusion, and the construction of universal constitutional principles

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Constitutional design processes increasingly take on a transnational dimension. Whether through diffusion of human rights and liberal democratic norms into national texts or through the involvement of international organizations, non-governmental organizations, and expert advisors in a small but growing number of cases of drafting constitutions themselves, the conceptualization of national constitutional design as a largely domestic process can no longer be taken for granted. What does international law say about constitutionalism and how do these legal arguments and political pressures change the incentive structures surrounding the drafters of national constitutions? Further, does the involvement of international law and international politics have any effect on the implementation of the text after adoption? This dissertation endeavors to answer both questions by joining two stories of constitutional design. First, it describes top-down arguments of international legal compliance and the effects of international law in national constitutional design. Second, exploring the role of political factions and pluralist responses to international influence in Cambodia and Vietnam, it shows how the bottom-up experience of domestic political actors and how responses to different the types and scales of intervention contributed to different experiences for these constitutions. Together, these two stories show how the study of comparative constitutionalism can be enriched by further accounting for international factors as not only sources of normative diffusion, but also as politically disruptive factors in the political negotiations that determine both the text itself and the text’s implementation after adoption.



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