Saint Louis University Public Law Review


Why are some war-torn countries able to make the transition to democracy? This paper intends to bring to light central dilemmas originating from the efforts of building peace and democracy in fragile states after war. We will focus on understanding the tensions and contradictions in post-conflict democratization, the challenges facing interim governments and the role of the international community. We will first analyze the set of structural and common dilemmas of peace-building and democratization in the aftermath of civil war, such as temporal, systemic, horizontal, and vertical dilemmas. The paper highly contributes theoretically to the body of knowledge by proposing a spiral of interrelated additional 8 dilemmas: security, safety, moral, sequencing, design, transparency, financial, and resources. Secondly, the different dilemmas will be addressed in relation to elections. Thirdly, constitutionalism is a sine qua non mechanism for establishing the new “social contract” based on the principles of democracy and the rule of law. Finally, the processes of democratization and peace-building are promoted by international actors who also face their own range of varying and even mutually contradictory dilemmas. In conclusion, from war to peace, democracy might prevail initially with a minimalist approach. But only if certain choices of elections procedures and constitutionalism design with specific separation of power and power sharing arrangements are foreseen towards sustainable peace. The paper has a multi-layered perspective that tries to fill the gaps between theory and practice on fragile states, civil wars, democratic governance and state institution building. By advancing theory and practice with policy-relevant results, the research hopes to facilitate more effective interventions and sustainable transitions from war to peace through democratic means.