Most studies on constitution-making emphasize how cultural and institutional characteristics independently impact successful democratic transitions. This article proposes a new approach to theorizing this process, positing that the character of institutional and cultural elements and the relationships between them give rise to a unique temporal and political context called a critical juncture, with qualities and characteristics that place some states on trajectories toward success and others toward failure. By analyzing and comparing the events surrounding the Egyptian and Tunisian transitions, we demonstrate how the placement of these institutional and cultural elements put Tunisia on the path to democratization and led Egypt inevitably toward autocracy. The findings show that, where these junctures fail to instill civic ideals and avenues for all parties’ participation, the political environment becomes uninhabitable for successful transition.
© 2016 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston