The article, by juxtaposing the Polish and the American democratic consolidations, examines the deficiencies of the state transformation in Poland, focusing specifically on the conflict between a procedural and a substantive interpretation of democratic order. The analysis of the act that initiated the process of transition to democracy, the Roundtable Accord of 1989, is followed by a case study of an imperfect consensus and political compromise, the choices of electoral laws. After discussion of some other cases of ill-conceived institutional designs, the article concludes with an analysis of the socio-political background of the institutional transformation in Poland.

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