The use of referendums in processes of constitutional formation and change has increased considerably across the world in recent decades.

This proliferation means that referendums have occurred in some of the most fragile and conflict-affected states, where there are many issues surrounding democracy and stability.

This Discussion Paper is based on a presentation by the author at the fourth Edinburgh Dialogue on post-conflict constitution-building, held in Edinburgh, United Kingdom, on 4–5 December 2017.

It argues that the use of the referendum has come to be seen as both highly significant and potentially problematic, particularly in territories beset by conflict or inter-ethnic division.


Publication date
14 August 2018
Stephen Tierney
Number of pages




1. Electoral system design: General observations

2. Electoral system design in the constitution-making setting

3. The question of trust

4. The devil is in the detail

5. Electoral system design and institutional framework design

6. The role of the diaspora

7. Electoral management in the constitutions of transition


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Reflections on referendums

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