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Hanna Lerner, Tel Aviv University Incrementalist approach to constitution making

The paper will re-examine the advantages and risks involved with the adoption of the incrementalist approach to constitution making. The incrementalist approach (or the permissive approach) was initially adopted by constitutional drafters in deeply divided societies in order to mitigate disagreements over identity-related issues (e.g. national, linguistic, religious identity). Drafters in different countries such as India and Israel refrained from making clear-cut choices on identity-related issues or core values by adopting various incrementalist strategies such as deferral of decision making, ambiguous language, conflicting provisions or nonjustiability. Such strategies allowed the drafters to transfer the political “hot potatoes” from the constitutional to the political level of lawmaking, often perceived as more flexible. The paper goes back to some of the countries that adopted such incrementalist approach at their foundational stage and explores the consequences of such strategy in the following decades. It will especially focus on cases that deviated from the incrementalist/permissive approach when reformed their constitution (such as Israel, Sri Lanka and India) and will hypothesize on the causes for such deviation. Drawing from the comparative analysis, the paper further proposed distinctions between (a) institutional versus ideational dimensions of incrementalist/permissive/mixed constitutional approach; (b) intentional versus non-intentional arrangements; (c) potentially pluralistic versus potentially conservative consequences of similar incrementalist/permissive strategies.

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