Clientelism, or machine politics, is a widely known phenomenon in the world. The distribution of benefits to individuals and the attempt to hold them accountable for their votes (Stokes et al., 2005) is practiced in both developed and developing countries, in both presidential and parliamentary systems. Clientelism is contrary to political equality and a distortion of basic ideals of democratic governance, including the “representative ideal” and the “deliberative ideal”. Constitutional law can react to, or interact with, clientelism, in various ways. The Colombian Constitution attempted to outlaw clientelistic practices with little success. In turn, its Constitutional Court has so far ignored clientelism when exercising judicial review of legislation and administrative decisions. Building from the Colombian example, this paper attempts to lay out a foundation on how to incorporate distortions of democratic governance, such as clientelism, in reflections about constitutional law.
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