Dead Hand Constitutionalism: the Danger of Eternity Clauses in New Democracies

Andrew Friedman


The 2009 Honduran constitutional crisis, in which sitting President Manuel Zelaya was captured from the Presidential Palace and flown to Costa Rica under the cover of night, illuminated the danger of entrenched and eternity clauses in fledgling democracies. This article discusses the way such clauses have been used in the past, identifying three general categories of historical eternity clauses. These categories include clauses that address the character of the government, the spirit or principles of the constitutional regime and finally the character of the country. The article also discusses potential problems that arise when such clauses are written into Constitutions of transitional democratic regimes.


Eternity clause; entrenched clause; constitutional development; amendment process; democracy; Honduras

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