Why are judicial review mechanisms being incorporated into so many democratizing states? This study analyzes why politicians create an independent judicial institution with the authority to overrule their own decisions. It sheds light on the role constitutional courts play in the consolidation phase of a democratic transition, focusing on one of those countries with no tradition of independent judicial review or of democratic forms of governance—Russia. Past practices and historical precedent do not support the formation of an independent judiciary in Russia, and yet a potentially powerful constitutional court now exists. Moreover, during the course of the transition from the Soviet state to the Russian Republic, there were three attempts to create an independent judicial review mechanism only one of which could be termed a success. This analysis focuses on the self-interested calculations of politicians in forming each of these three institutions, demonstrating that political actors establish a constitutional court to enhance their democratic credibility.

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