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AU Conference Addresses Democracy Gap

Why do new constitutions further improve democracy in some nations but not in others? What is the nature of interest group involvement in the drafting, approval, and implementation of new constitutions? How do such constitutions impact the politics of “day to day” in democratizing nations?

These are the kinds of questions to be addressed "The Gap from Parchment to Practice: Ambivalent Effects of Constitutions in Democratizing Countries,” a conference sponsored by the Latin American Studies Association, the Mellon Foundation, the School of Public Affairs' Department of Government, and the School of International Service Comparative and Regional Studies program, on May 28 and 29th. Discussions will cover issues in new democracies including Colombia, Venezuala, Bolivia, Egypt, and other countries.

The conference, which is organized by AU faculty members Todd Eisenstadt (SPA), Carl LeVan (SIS), and Rob Albro (SIS), is open to the public.

Conference Schedule

Tuesday, May 29


School of International Service, Founder’s Room


9:15 - 9:30  Welcome from James Goldgeier, School of International Service and Barbara Romzek, School of Public Affairs

Theoretical and Empirical Questions I

9:30  “New Constitutions and Democracy: an Overview” -- Robert Albro, Todd Eisenstadt, Carl LeVan, American University

DISCUSSANTS: Joel Barkan, Center for Strategic and International Studies and Michael Coppedge, University of Notre Dame

Theoretical and Empirical Questions II
Moderated by Todd Eisenstadt, American University

10:30  “Can We Trust Legislators to Write Constitutions?” -- Zachary Elkins, University of Texas – Austin 

DISCUSSANT: Ernesto Calvo, University of Maryland

Theoretical and Empirical Questions III
Moderated by Carl LeVan, American University 

11:30  “Bringing Insights from Corporate Governance to the Study of Constitution Making” -- Jennifer Widner, Princeton University

DISCUSSANT: Jon Gould, American University

Cases and Regions I: Northern Andes
Moderated by Agustina Giraudy, American University

1:45  “Deepening Democracy via Constitutional Change? Contrasting Colombia and Venezuela” -- Ana Maria Bejarano, University of Toronto and Renata Segura, Social Science Research Council

DISCUSSANT: Matthew Taylor, American University 

2:45  “Venezuela: Between ta Bolivarian Constitution and the Authoritarian Populism of Hugo Chávez” -- Nelly Arenas, Central University of Venezuela

DISCUSSANT: Miriam Kornblith, National Endowment for Democracy

Cases and Regions II: African Cases
Moderated by Ryan Briggs, American University 

4:00  “Constitutional Legitimacy and the Dimensions of Participatory Constitution-Making” -- Devra Moehler and Eleanor Marchant, University of Pennsylvania

DISCUSSANT: Gina Lambright, George Washington University 

5:00  “Constitution-making and Democracy in Mali: The Unraveling of a Democratic Model” -- Susanna Wing, Haverford College

DISCUSSANT: Adrienne LeBas, American University 

Wednesday, May 29

School of International Service, Founder’s Room

Cases and Regions III: Bolivia’s Bold Experiment
Moderated by Jo-Marie Burt of George Mason University (invited)

9:15  “Constituent Power from Below in Bolivia? Implications of Rights-based Conflict in the New Constitutional Era” -- Robert Albro, American University

DISCUSSANT: Miguel Centellas, University of Mississippi

10:15  “Refounding ‘halfway’ in Bolivia: the Consolidation of a Hybrid Democracy after the Promulgation of the 2009 Plurinational Constitution” -- Diego Ayo, Universidad Católica de Bolivia

DISCUSSANT: Katie Kuhn, George Washington University 

Cases and Regions IV: Egypt and Middle East
Moderated by Diane Singerman, American University

11:15  “Bringing the Constitution Online: The Struggle over Egypt’s New Constitution” -- Ghazal Poshtkouhian Nadi and Tofigh Maboudi, American University

DISCUSSANT: Nathan Brown, George Washington University 

1:30  “Constitutionalizing Islam: Variations in Religion-State Relationships among Muslim Countries” -- Shaheen Mozaffar, Bridgewater State University

DISCUSSANT: Kristin Diwan, American University 

Moderated by Eric Hershberg, American University 

2:30-4:00  Roundtable: “Understanding the Ambiguous Impacts of New Constitutions on Democracy” -- Robert Albro, Todd Eisenstadt, Zackary Elkins, Carl LeVan, Jennifer Widner