Accommodating Compound Peoples – Wedding Votes and Bargains

In states composed of different ethnic, religious or linguistic groups, unfettered majoritarian democracy can threaten diversity or stability or both. Minority groups risk ending up as permanent losers and have few options than to assimilate or to alienate from the state. The first option endangers the group’s identity; the second can lead to separatism and the de facto or de iure fragmentation of the state.
Starting from the assumption that the risk of a tyranny of the majority is particularly dangerous in divided societies the paper looks at mechanisms to accommodate compound peoples. It argues that states characterised by deep cleavages can render democracy more acceptable and more sustainable by constitutionalising elements of treaty law, such as unanimity requirements, veto rights and eternity clauses. By using the example of Syria and by referring to other states characterised by civil war or violent conflicts, possible combinations of majority- and treaty-law will be explored.