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The Newest-Oldest Separation of Powers - Xenophon Contiades and Alkmene Fotiadou (eds.), Participatory Constitutional Change: The People as Amenders of the Constitution (Routledge2017).

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 July 2018


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Book Review
© The Authors 2018 

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Senior Lecturer, Radzyner Law School, Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya. Email: I would like to thank Richard Albert and Nadiv Mordechay for earlier discussions on this topic. Earlier thoughts were mentioned at the Maryland Constitutional Law Schmooze (2–3 March 2017).


1 For a comparative reconstruction see Möllers, C., The Three Branches: A Comparative Model of Separation of Powers (Oxford University Press 2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

2 C. Montesquieu, De l’Espirit des lois (Gonzague Truce ed., Vol. I, Paris 1961) p. 162.

3 See e.g. Brand, J.T., ‘Montesquieu and the Separation of Powers’, 12(3) Oregon Law Review (1932-1933) p. 175 Google Scholar. For a critical perspective see Claus, L., ‘Montesquieu’s Mistakes and the True Meaning of Separation’, 25(3) Oxford Journal of Legal Studies (2005) p. 419 CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For other justifications of the doctrine see e.g. Waldron, J., ‘Separation of Powers in Thought and Practice’, 54 Boston College Law Review (2013) p. 433 Google Scholar.

4 Ackerman, B., ‘The New Separation of Powers’, 113(3) Harvard Law Review (2000) p. 634 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

5 Skach, C., ‘The “Newest” Separation of Powers’, 4(4) International Journal of Constitutional Law (2007) p. 93 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

6 Sieyès, E.J., ‘What is the Third Estate?’, in Political Writings (Hackett Publishing Co Inc 2003) p. 136 Google Scholar.

7 In his study on the development of constituent power, Egon Zweig demonstrates that logically, popular sovereignty may be derived from Montesquieu’s separation of powers. E. Zweig, Die Lehre vom Pouvoir Constituant: Ein Beitrag zum Staatsrecht der französischen Revolution (1909). See also Kelly, D., ‘Egon Zweig and the Intellectual History of Constituent Power’, in K.L. Grotke and M.J. Prutsch (eds.), Constitutionalism, Legitimacy, and Power: Nineteenth-Century Experiences (Oxford University Press 2014) p. 332 Google Scholar.

8 Arato, A., The Adventures of the Constituent Power (Cambridge University Press 2017) p. 76 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

9 Barshack, L., ‘Notes on The Clerical Body of The Law’, 24(3) Cardozo Law Review (2003) p. 1151 Google Scholar at p. 1161.

10 Roznai, Y., Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendments – The Limits of Amendment Powers (Oxford University Press 2017)Google Scholar Ch. 4. On such constitutional moments of higher lawmaking see Ackerman, B., We The People: Foundations (Harvard University Press 1991) p. 185-186 Google Scholar.

11 On the history of the distinction between sovereignty and government in political thought see Tuck, R., The Sleeping Sovereign (Cambridge University Press 2016)Google Scholar.

12 On the terminology of ‘right’ and ‘power’ and this context, see Roznai, supra n 10.

13 Friedrich, C.J., Constitutional Government and Politics – Nature and Development (Harper & Brothers Publishers 1937) p. 117 Google Scholar.

14 See e.g. Pereira, T., ‘Constituting the Amendment Power – A Framework for Comparative Amendment Law’, in R. Albert et al., The Foundations and Traditions of Constitutional Amendment (Hart Publishing 2017) p. 105 Google Scholar.

15 Roznai, supra n 10. See also Roznai, Y., ‘Towards A Theory of Constitutional Unamendability: On the Nature and Scope of the Constitutional Amendment Powers’, 18 Jus Politicum – Revue de Droit Politique (2017) p. 5 Google Scholar.

16 Y. Roznai, ‘The Spectrum of Constitutional Amendment Powers’, in Albert et al., supra n. 14.

17 Suksi, M., Making a Constitution: The Outline of an Argument (rättsvetenskapliga institutionen, 1995) p. 5 Google Scholar at p. 10-11.

18 See Biaggini, G., ‘Switzerland’, in D. Oliver and C. Fusaro (eds.), How Constitutions Change—A Comparative Study (Hart Publishing 2011) p. 303 Google Scholar at p. 316-317. On the question whether there is scope for an ‘unconstitutional amendment doctrine’ to constrain the scope of popular initiatives in Switzerland see Dixon, R., ‘The Swiss Constitution and a Weak-Form Unconstitutional Amendment Doctrine?’, UNSW Law Research Paper 75 (2017)Google Scholar at <>, visited 16 April 2018.

19 J.A. Lenowitz, Why Ratification? Questioning the Unexamined Constitution-making Procedure (PhD Thesis, Columbia University 2013) p. 85.

20 See e.g. Kavanagh, A, ‘Unconstitutional Constitutional Amendments from Irish Free State to Irish Republic’, in E. Carolan (ed.), The Constitution of Ireland: Perspectives and Prospects (Bloomsbury Professional 2012) p. 331 Google Scholar. See also Roznai, Y., ‘The Theory and Practice of “Supra-Constitutional” Limits on Constitutional Amendments’, 62(3) International and Comparative Law Quarterly (2013) p. 557 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

21 Klein, C., ‘Is There a Need for an Amending Power Theory?’, 13 Israel Law Review (1978) p. 203 CrossRefGoogle Scholar at p. 213.

22 Ibid.

23 Contiades, X. and Fotiadou, A. (eds.), Participatory Constitutional Change: The People as Amenders of the Constitution (Routledge, 2017)Google Scholar.

24 Ibid., p. 2.

25 X. Contiades and A. Fotiadou, ‘The People as amenders of the constitution’, in Participatory Constitutional Change, p. 9.

26 Suteu, S., ‘Constitutional Conventions in the Digital Era: Lessons from Iceland and Ireland’, 38 Boston College International and Comparative Law Review (2015) p. 252 Google Scholar.

27 A prime example would be Colón-Rios, J., Weak Constitutionalism: Democratic Legitimacy and the Question of Constituent Power (Routledge 2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

28 S. Tierney, ‘Europe is entering the “age of the referendum”, but there is nothing to fear for European democracy if referendums are properly regulated’, Democratic Audit UK Blog, 22 October 2014. On Tierney’s work on referendums see e.g. Tierney, S., Constitutional Referendums: The Theory and Practice of Republican Deliberation (Oxford University Press 2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

29 See e.g. Duran, B. and Miş, N, ‘Turkey’s constitutional referendum and its effects on Turkish politics’, 58(3) Orient (2017) p. 52 Google Scholar.

30 See e.g. Turp, D., et al., The Catalan Independence Referendum: An Assessment of the Process of Self-determination (IRA 2017)Google Scholar.

31 See e.g. Vasilopoulou, S., ‘UK Europscepticism and the Brexit Referendum’, 87(2) The Political Quarterly (2016) p. 219 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

32 See e.g. Murphy, Y., ‘The marriage equality referendum 2015’, 31(2) Irish Political Studies (2016) p. 315 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

33 Mullen, T., ‘The Scottish Independence Referendum 2014’, 41(4) Journal of Law and Society (2014) p. 627 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

34 Startin, N. and Krouwel, A., ‘Euroscepticism Re-galvanized: The Consequences of the 2005 French and Dutch Rejections of the EU Constitution’, 51 Journal of Common Market Studies (2013) p. 65 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

35 H. Krunke, ‘Sovereignty, constitutional identity, direct democracy? Direct democracy as a national strategy for upholding the nation state in EU integration’, in Participatory Constitutional Change, p. 191-192. One can add to this a counter-response to constitutional change through the judiciary. See Contiades and Fotiadou, supra n. 25, p. 11.

36 McCargo, D., Alexander, S.T., and Desatova, P., ‘Ordering Peace: Thailand’s 2016 Constitutional Referendum’, 39(1) Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs (2017) p. 65 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

37 Altman, D., ‘Latin America’, in M. Qvortrup (ed.), Referendums Around the World (Palgrave Macmillan 2018) p. 185 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

38 See e.g. Wattad, M.S., ‘Israel’s Laws on Referendum: A Tale of Unconstitutional Legal Structure’, 27 Florida Journal of International Law (2015) p. 213 Google Scholar. An English translation of the Basic Law is available at <>, visited 17 April 2018.

39 Abbiate, T., Bockenforde, M. and Federico, V., ‘Introduction’, in T. Abbiate, M. Böckenförde, V. Federico (eds.), Public Participation in African Constitutionalism (Routledge 2017) p. 1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

40 For an older study on the referendum device in various regions such as Australia and New Zealand, American States, Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the ormer Soviet Union, see Butler, D. and Ramsey, A., Referendums Around the World: The Growing Use of Direct Democracy (The AEI Press 1994)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For a more recent study that provides factual data on referendums around the world, and includes the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa, see Qvortrup, supra n. 37.

41 Cram, I., ‘Book Review – Participatory Constitutional Change: The People as Amenders of the Constitution’, 66(2) International and Comparative Law Quarterly (2017) p. 516 CrossRefGoogle Scholar at p. 517.

42 Ackerman, supra n. 4, p. 669. See also Möllers, C., ‘We Are (Afraid of) the People: Constituent Power in German Constitutionalism’, in M. Loughlin and N. Walker (eds.), The Paradox of Constitutionalism: Constituent Power and Constitutional Form (Oxford University Press 2008) p. 87 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

43 Bedocl, C., Reforming Democracy: Institutional Engineering in Western Europe (Oxford University Press 2017) p. 72-73 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

44 See Contiades and Fotiadou, supra n. 25, p. 15.

45 Contiades, X. and Fotiadou, A., ‘Models of Constitutional Change’, in X. Contiades (ed.), Engineering Constitutional Change: A Comparative Perspective on Europe, Canada and the USA (Routledge 2012) p. 417 CrossRefGoogle Scholar at p. 430.

46 Roznai, supra n. 16.

47 Saunders, C., ‘Constitution-Making in the 21st Century’, 1 International Review of Law (2012) p. 2 Google Scholar.

48 Elkins, Z., Ginsburg, T. and Blount, J., ‘The Citizen as Founder: Public Participation in Constitutional Approval’, 81 Temple Law Review (2008) p. 361 Google Scholar at p. 367.

49 Auer, A., ‘Editorial – The people have spoken: abide? A critical view of the EU’s dramatic referendum (in)experience’, 12 EuConst (2016) p. 397 Google Scholar at p. 402.

50 M. Qvortrup, ‘Western Europe’, in Qvortrup, supra n. 37, p. 19.

51 J. Fitzgibbon, ‘Ireland’s decision to retain the Seanad is not the end of the country’s political reform process’, LSE European Politics and Policy (EUROPP) Blog, 9 October 2013.

52 Pasquino, G. and Valbruzzi, M., ‘Italy says no: the 2016 constitutional referendum and its consequences’, 22(2) Journal of Modern Italian Studies (2017) p. 145 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

53 Vasilopoulou, supra n. 31.

54 Matanock, A.M. and García-Sánchez, M., ‘The Colombian Paradox: Peace Processes, Elite Divisions & Popular Plebiscites’, 146(4) Daedalus (2017) p. 152 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

55 Ibid.

56 As Qvortrup writes, referendums have tended to have the effect of ‘a democratic safeguard’ against overzealous politicians and hasty legislation. See M. Qvortrup, ‘Two Hundred Years of Referendums’, in Qvortrup, supra n. 37, p. 263.

57 R. Albert, ‘2016 Book Recommendation: Contiades & Fotiadou on “The People”’, International Journal of Constitutional Law Blog, 28 December 2016.

58 See Lee, D., Popular Sovereignty in Early Modern Constitutional Thought (Oxford University Press 2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.