New York University Public Law and Legal Theory Working Papers

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The Principle of Loyal Opposition is key to the way in which modern democracies organize themselves. It is bound up with the existence of political parties, of which we need to take much more notice in political theory (as Nancy Rosenblum has argued) and with the significance of reasonable disagreement in politics. The principle is exhibited most clearly in systems that actually assign a role to an official Opposition party and an Opposition Leadership. But versions of it are also apparent in American-style constitutions, albeit they are harder to discern in a context in which different functions of government may assigned, branch by branch, to members of different political parties. Finally, the paper interrogates the idea of "loyalty" in "loyal opposition." Loyalty to what? The paper argues that the phrase should not connote any sort of litmus test of support for constitutional essentials, but should rather convey a sense that as far as possible opposition parties are always to be regarded as loyal, no matter what policies or constitutional changes they favor.

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constitution, constitutional essentials, democracy, loyal opposition, political parties