Is constitutional politics like politics 'at home'?: The case of the EU constitution

P.J.M. Pennings, C.U. Arnold

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


A large number of delegates from different institutional levels within the EU have achieved a remarkable consensus on a draft constitution. Has this consensus been made possible because the nationally predominant left-right divide was only weakly present during the deliberations of the delegates? Left-right differences have been analysed by means of a content analysis on submitted documents during the European Convention. The data analysis confirms our assumption that the left-right distinction was relevant, although not very dominant. The draft constitution did not take a mean position on left and right issues, but in fact puts more emphasis on substantial goals related to both left and right, giving an equal weight to both anti-poles. However, if we exclude the Charter of Human Rights, the draft constitution appears to be strongly tilted to the right. The analysis also shows that party family differences did affect the process of coalition building during the Convention, since more than half of all documents have been submitted together with at least one member of the same party family and/or with one family member close by. Our analysis also indicates that the process of consensus building was enhanced by the absence of many extremist and new parties during the Convention. This may have enhanced agreement on the Constitution, but later it became problematic for the domestic democratic process and for the acceptance of the Constitution in some countries, such as France and the Netherlands, especially since some of the excluded parties have actively and successfully mobilised voters to vote against the Constitution. © 2008 The Authors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)789-806
Number of pages18
JournalPolitical Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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