Constitutions of the World


Robert L. Maddex

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      The best form of government, Aristotle suggested in The Politics, is the one “in which every man, whoever he is, can act best and live happily.” Those who do so, he said, are destined to attain a state of eudaimonia—beyond any individually enumerated pleasures. Today the nations of the world have developed varied forms of government, most of them undergirded with written or traditional constitutions. The ideals expressed so often and so unequivocally in these constitutions, as Aristotle (384–322 B.C.) would no doubt agree, represent goals, not accomplishments, and they are met to varying degrees in different countries at different times. Yet, because no world or regional governments exist to raise the level of political organization beyond individual nation-states, national constitutions remain the highest form of human organizational aspiration.

      This new edition of Constitutions of the World contains twenty new entries, including the last two members of the former Republic of Yugoslavia—Montenegro and Serbia, which severed their ties in 2006 and became independent nation-states. The other new entries are Afghanistan, Angola, Bhutan, Cameroon, East Timor (Timore-Leste), Estonia, The Gambia, Guatemala, Guyana, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Rwanda, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Tunisia, and Uruguay. Countries whose constitutions have significantly changed since the last edition, either as a result of a new constitutional document or major revision of an existing one, include Iraq, Monaco, Nepal, Pakistan, Romania, Sudan, Tanzania, Thailand, and Zimbabwe.

      In general, since the last edition, the majority of the countries covered still prefer the presidential-style parliamentary form of government, which is based on the French republican model. The second most popular form is the presidential republic pioneered by the United States. The governments of China, Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam remain singleparty dictatorships, and Saudi Arabia remains an absolute monarchy. Some major changes, however, include the restoration of a revised constitution for Pakistan, a new constitution for Iraq in the wake of the ouster of Saddam Hussein, and an interim constitution with provisions for a constitutional assembly to create a new permanent document, promulgated by the ruling junta in Thailand. Moreover, in the last few years in Eastern Europe some countries have amended their constitutions in preparation for joining the European Union.

      This book is organized alphabetically by country. Each chapter begins with a brief introduction to the country, which is followed by a historical overview emphasizing legal and constitutional development. Background information on indigenous populations and early forms of political and social organization is included to show that historically the forms of governing derived from Western Europe and the United States are not, in fact, unique and can be compared with the self-organizing methods of earlier people everywhere on earth.

      Next, the country's current constitution is presented, with comments on major items of interest. The constitutional profile is arranged from a structural or functional point of view: first, the preamble or other introductory material; then, the parts or articles dealing with fundamental rights; the structure of the government, generally the executive, legislative, and judicial branches; and the amending process. (Many of the documents relied on are translations into English, and some translated works and transliterations of foreign words have been standardized, such as the word shari'a, meaning Islamic law. Some typographical editing of translated materials was required for clarity and uniformity.) Each area is described under a separate heading to facilitate comparisons among countries.

      In addition to this basic formula, entries may provide comparisions with other nations and describe the implementation of constitutional provisions in actual practice. If the operation of a country's government deviates significantly from the provisions of its constitution, such discrepancies may be noted. In the end, however, a description of a constitution is merely a snapshot in time—at any given moment formal and informal changes are taking place in constitutions and constitutional processes all over the globe, altering the picture.

      One indication of the growing interest in world constitutions is the increased availability of information about them on the Internet. A relatively expedient way to research a particular national constitution is to go to Google ( and search for the “constitution of (country).” No single authoritative site yet provides all of the constitutions of the world in English and in official English translations.

      While a well-crafted constitution may provide a basis for efficient and just governance, it alone cannot ensure political stability or enforcement of human rights. For each country, the proper mix of traditional and democratic institutions, education, economic stability, internal and external security, and, perhaps most important, the ability and motivation of key political leaders is necessary for a constitution to be effective. The current attempts at “nation-building” by the United States and its allies in Afghanistan and Iraq are ample proof of the difficulty of imposing a new constitution and system of government on people for whom the basic concepts of Western pluralistic democracy are still alien or viewed as a threat by existing political power brokers. From the beginning of democratic government in ancient Greece, history makes it abundantly clear that democracy is not the “default” form of political organization; it requires a high degree of citizen understanding and participation to work well even under the best of conditions.

      In addition to the staffs of embassies and the departments and ministries of the countries included in Constitutions of the World, the following people deserve special appreciation for their assistance: Robert L. Wiser, designer and compositor; for CQ Press, Doug Goldenberg-Hart, acquiring editor, Joan Gossett, managing editor, Robin Surratt, project editor, and Kathleen Savory, copy editor; Lloyd N. Cutler of Wilmer, Cutler and Pickering and former legal counsel to the president of the United States; A. E. Dick Howard, White Burkett Miller Professor of Law and Public Affairs, University of Virginia School of Law; Phuong-Khanh Nguyen, senior foreign law specialist, Library of Congress; Herman Schwartz, professor of law, Washington College of Law, the American University; and, for her dedication in making yet another book out of many words, my wife, Diane Maddex, president of Archetype Press.


      “I invoke the genius of the constitution!”—William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, November 18, 1777

      Since the world's first modern, written national constitution was drafted for the United States of America in 1787, an explosion of new technology and science has almost obscured the equally astounding explosion of constitutions and constitutionalism throughout the world. In fact, in many countries more people are directly affected by the radical change in their relationship with those who govern them than they are by the trappings of technology and science so pervasive in postindustrial societies. Farming in most of the Third World, for example, continues today much as it did two thousand years ago, but farmers can go to the polls in many of these countries and vote their opinion on the success or failure of their leaders.

      Of course, not all people in all the countries that have adopted modern constitutions can exercise their fundamental human rights or enforce the popular sovereignty so grandiosely declared in constitutional documents and politicians’ speeches. But what is clearly evident is the evolving desire in nearly all these nations to strive for a system of constitutional government that meets these expectations. In 1787, except in the United States, Britain, and perhaps a few other countries, the mere expectation of popular sovereignty, individual rights, or checks and balances on the absolute power of rulers was an absurd pipe dream, as foolish then as planning a trip to the moon or watching a live sports event being played halfway around the world.

      But having a national constitution and truly appreciating its potential are two different things. The average person may believe that constitutions—although highly desirable—are to be read and understood only by a select few: people in government, lawyers, judges, and scholars. Young people in countries with high rates of literacy and compulsory education can often recite the lyrics to all the latest popular songs or the most trivial statistics of their favorite sports heroes, yet they have almost no knowledge of their own country's constitution.

      The underlying premise of Constitutions of the World is that constitutions are important to everyone—the constitution of our own country, to be sure, but the constitutions of other countries as well. By coming to know the differences and similarities in these supreme laws that represent the aspirations of people like us, we can better understand them and ourselves. The global village predicted by Marshall McLuhan forty years ago has come to pass. The walls of many nations are being breached by international business, communications, and travel, and new regional configurations such as the European Union are emerging—configurations primarily for economic rather than ideological or defensive purposes. How countries set about organizing their governments is no longer a matter of idle curiosity for the citizen of the world. It is as important as knowing your next-door neighbors.

      The Constitutions of Nations

      “Every country has its own constitution,” one Russian is alleged to have remarked in the nineteenth century; “ours is absolutism moderated by assassination” (quoted by George Vernadsky in A History of Russia, 1961). According to “Junius,” a commentator on the British constitution (reputedly Sir Phillip Francis, letter of April 24, 1769), “The right of election is the very essence of the constitution.” Whatever form the modern national constitution takes, its primary goal should be to define limitations on those who rule at the highest level in a nation-state. A nation-state is simply the basic international unit of a theoretically independent and sovereign territory that may be bound by external restrictions under international law but that otherwise is generally free to manage its own internal affairs. Unfortunately, too many national constitutions today are extremely ineffectual documents or outright shams that try to mask unbridled dictatorships.

      A constitution, by itself, cannot ensure a democratic government or guarantee fundamental liberties for all those under its jurisdiction. Most countries, however, at least find it necessary to have some written constitution or constitutional laws and traditions in order to promote the idea that those holding political power are limited by some rules. Many countries take these rules seriously enough to rework them frequently. For example, just since 1990 fifty of the countries featured in Constitutions of the World have written new constitutions or restored former constitutions as their supreme law. Eleven countries did so twice, and one country, Thailand, has had three new constitutions in this period and there is a new one pending adoption. Moreover, thirty countries have revised or significantly amended their constitutions.

      Defining a national constitution is not a simple exercise. A constitution may be viewed both as a process—a description of what actually takes place in the running of a national government—and as a stated or assumed expectancy that may vary to a greater or lesser degree from the actual practices of governing authorities. For example, in a country dominated by the Communist Party, the party's rules, whether written or merely tacitly understood, more closely resemble the “constitution-as-process” of the country—that is, how the power to run the country is maintained, directed, channeled, and transferred—than the formally expressed constitution. Any officially acknowledged constitutional documents and traditions that purport to define the roles of national government institutions and officials and set forth the rights of individuals and societal goals may be characterized as a “constitution-as-expectancy.” The frequency with which such expectancies are lived up to varies widely from country to country.

      Constitutions of the World, while often noting the disparity between written or customary rules governing a country and the actual process observed or reported, presents a structural summary of the more important formal rules of the constitution-as-expectancy of more than one hundred nations. Each chapter provides a snapshot of the ideals and goals declared by the originators of the current constitutional documents and traditions in each country. The text gives a frame of reference not only for comparing a de jure (legal or formal) constitution with a de facto (actually observed) process, but also for comparing formal constitutions with each other.

      De jure constitutions may be “written,” in the sense of being encompassed basically in a single document like the U.S. constitution, or “unwritten,” in the sense of being expressed in more than one document as well as in laws of constitutional stature and rigidly adhered to traditional practices, such as the United Kingdom's constitution. Even so-called written constitutions, however, are never totally encompassed in written documents alone; they all draw on a multitude of assumptions and nongovernment institutions for their substance. In the United States, for example, the role of political parties in organizing elections and the executive and legislative branches of the government after elections is not dealt within the written constitution, nor was it contemplated by its framers. It is, therefore, only in the social, political, and historical context of each country that a national constitution truly comes to life.

      The History of Constitutions

      Constitutions and compilations of constitutions are not new. Plato (ca. 427–347 B.C.) concerns himself with constitutions in both The Republic and his last work, TheLaws; Aristotle compiled some 158 constitutions of Greek city-states. At Benjamin Franklin's request, the French ministry of foreign affairs authorized the publication of Constitutions des Treize États-Unis in 1783, which, together with the U.S. constitution, became a source of reference for the constitution makers of Europe.

      The framers of the U.S. constitution reviewed many systems of contemporaneous governments and also looked to the early Greek and Roman constitutions for guidance. Whether drafting a modern constitution or simply analyzing one, the historical setting is crucial to the process. To a large extent, constitutions of nations are unique plants that need the proper historical soil and sociological climate to grow and flower.

      Any attempt to understand or compare constitutions today thus would not be possible without some historical background and political and social context in which to frame the fundamental principles contained in the documents themselves. And while it is possible to analyze and compare the constitutions of countries in the abstract, the importance of the context in which the principles developed and in which they are consulted internally on a daily basis cannot be overstated.

      Like most human creations, constitutions are a response to a problem presented by nature—human nature in this instance. We need to organize ourselves politically, dividing into rulers and the ruled. The specific problem that a constitution tries to address is how to create a stable and secure human community within a prescribed territory under a political organization flexible enough to adapt to external and internal changes that may threaten the community's stability and security. The problem has grown more acute as population has increased and the world, in terms of communications and travel, has shrunk. For the past two hundred years nation-states appear to have been searching for the perfect balance of authoritarian stability and individual freedom to survive as legally recognized sovereign entities. From the first limitations on absolute monarchs to the constitutional limitations on the rulers or governors of the nation-state, constitutions have developed to provide some of this stability and predictability.

      Constitutions of the World offers an overview of more than one hundred constitutional solutions being tested by some of the world's major countries. The differences and the similarities can be startling.

      Common Elements of Constitutions

      With a few exceptions, all constitutions contain some common elements. From Magna Carta of 1215 to today, constitutional documents and traditions take the general form of a contract or an agreement between the ruled and the rulers. Limitations on the rulers are exacted by the ruled in exchange for allowing the rulers to preserve some elements of their right to govern and for preserving the stability of the governing system itself. Whether a constitution develops from the initial state of a strong central authority into a more decentralized one with checks and balances wrested by the subjects or citizens from their rulers, or whether it develops from a loosely knit decentralized confederation into a grant of sovereignty to a more centralized authority, it has the general elements of an agreement between those who govern and those who are governed.

      Other key conceptual features commonly found in constitutions include a purposeful division or separation of the three basic powers or functions of government—the executive, legislative, and judicial—identified early on by Aristotle and rediscovered by the French lawyer and philosopher Montesquieu (1689–1755); an emphasis on the “rule of law,” meaning that all citizens, including those chosen to govern, are equally subject to the laws of the land; and the supremacy of the constitution or constitutional documents over ordinary law. This latter feature has many variations, from the traditional constraints on the theoretical supremacy of the United Kingdom's parliament to the new voluntary subordination of nation-state sovereignty to regional or international authorities.

      Common structural features can also be found. Almost all constitutions contain a preamble or introductory clauses or articles; recite a set of fundamental rights and guarantees, and sometimes duties, for those under a nation's jurisdiction; describe executive, legislative, and judicial officials and bodies and their powers and duties; and provide a procedure for amending the constitution. Some revised or new constitutions contain transitional provisions. Many written documents contain extensive additional material, especially the dirigiste types of constitutions, like those of Brazil and Portugal, that describe details of social and political goals in addition to rules for governing the country and a list of individual rights. The formats of the constitutions of the major countries of the world nonetheless seem remarkably alike.

      Constitutions can be categorized on the basis of the type or structure of a nation's system of government. For example, the basic, if no longer prevalent, form is that of a traditional unlimited, or “unconstitutional,” monarchy, also called an autocracy and similar to a dictatorship. Sovereignty, or the source of political power in such a system, is focused in one person such as a king or an emperor. Theoretical underpinnings for these governments are often religious (“the divine right of kings”) or legitimist (the hereditary right to rule). Military dictatorships, on the other hand, rely more on raw firepower than philosophical contortions for their political authority. Other general forms of modern government include the parliamentary constitutional (limited) monarchy, the presidential system, and the presidential-style parliamentary system. Nation-states may also be categorized as unitary or as variations of federal systems that divide power vertically between the national government and semisovereign subunits, such as states or provinces. The term republic used in the names of many countries simply denotes the fact that they are not monarchies. (See the glossary for definitions of other constitutional terms.)

      Preamble. Preambles are not found in all constitutions, but when they are they tend to contain hyperbolic language that does little to shed light on the system of government or the practicality of the constitution itself. However, in the case of some constitutions of communist countries, the preamble may reveal the motives for the document, which otherwise bears little resemblance to how the national political power structure actually operates. A preamble may also provide a clue as to the inspiration and sources of principles that informed the document's drafters.

      Fundamental Rights. Most written constitutions recite a list of fundamental rights of the country's citizens or inhabitants, analogous to the U.S. bill of rights, and many also include a list of duties of their citizens. Key fundamental rights include freedom of the press, religion, association, assembly, and petition of grievances against government authorities, as well as protections for private property and persons accused of crimes. But the fact that a right is not expressly provided for in a constitutional document does not always mean that it is not recognized in other law or by judicial rulings or tradition.

      Some constitutions expressly limit guaranteed fundamental rights. Regardless of whether such limitations are expressed, how well any guaranteed rights are implemented varies from country to country. In some extreme cases, violations of human rights in countries with express constitutional guarantees of fundamental rights are noted in the text. The absence of such notation, however, is not intended to imply that violations do not occur in a particular country.

      A number of nations have incorporated regional, multinational, and international standards of human, civil, and political rights into their constitutions or laws. This trend toward international and verifiable standards of human rights provides hope for real progress in this area, but many countries still have abysmal records with respect to human and civil rights.

      Structure of Government. Although most constitutional documents deal with them separately, it is often difficult to draw clear lines of distinction among the powers and duties of the three traditional branches of government—executive, legislative, and judicial—plus other branches defined in a few constitutions. Typically, parliamentary systems tend to blur the lines more between the legislative and executive branches than do presidential systems. Historically, model parliamentary systems, such as the British and French governments, have evolved from a clash between monarchs or absolutists and the less powerful members of society. Therefore, the division of powers in these countries today is more the result of pragmatic compromises than of a carefully thought-out theory of the separation of powers. Many presidential-style parliamentary systems have evolved by way of amendments and revisions that have created a president who is both head of state and head of government as in a pure presidential system, but with a prime minister continuing in a role with less than his or her traditional executive powers. Presidential systems, on the other hand, tend to start out with the concept of a fairly strict separation of powers.

      Executive: With few exceptions, all constitutions place the executive power of national government—the power to execute or implement laws and policy—either in the hands of a monarch or monarchlike president and a prime minister and cabinet or in the hands of a president and cabinet. Almost all European monarchies, with the possible exception of Monaco, provide the monarch with a basically ceremonial role in both the executive and legislative functions. In presidential-style parliamentary systems the powers of the president vis-à-vis the prime minister run the gamut. The distribution of power may be affected by a country's experience or concern with an abuse of excessive power by the president; therefore, a consensus may develop for giving more executive power to the prime minister, who is generally more subject to checks and balances by the legislature or parliament through interpellation—parliamentary questioning—and no-confidence votes.

      Key powers of the executive generally include appointment of government officials, supreme command of the armed forces, some veto power over legislation, and relatively exclusive control of foreign policy. In some countries, however, powerful political or military figures without any formal position in the government in fact exercise great influence extra-constitutionally on the government's executive functions.

      Legislature: Legislatures come in two basic forms: parliaments and congresses. The term parliament is derived from the French word parlement, which evolved into a sort of court in France; in England the word took on the meaning first of a council of state and then a legislative body. The term congress is more directly related to the notion of a formal meeting of delegates. Both, however, have come to mean a supreme legislative body or a legislature with the power to make laws.

      The main difference between a congressional legislature and a parliamentary legislature is that a congress is theoretically a separate branch of government, not fused with the executive branch in the person of a monarch or granted constitutional control over a prime minister as head of government and cabinet as in the case of a parliamentary system. “The principles of a free constitution are irrevocably lost when the legislative power is nominated by the executive,” wrote the English historian Edward Gibbon (The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 1776–1788).

      There are other general distinctions between a congress and a parliament. A congress or its divisions, called houses or chambers, has a set term of years between elections; a parliament, at least the more politically powerful lower house, may be dissolved for elections before its constitutional term has expired. A parliament is either supreme in its power to change the constitution or its supremacy has been limited by a written constitution; a congress, like other branches, is bound by the constitution and has only a partial role to play in the amendment process. In a parliamentary system the head of government (the prime minister, premier, or chancellor) and the cabinet members are subject to questioning (interpellation) by the elected representatives in the legislature and even to being censured and expelled from power; a congress generally can only confirm key appointments, investigate executive branch activities, and remove the head of government by an impeachment process.

      Judiciary and Constitutional Review: Courts in many nations, to the extent that they choose to undertake the task, are often the ultimate guarantors of how well a constitution does its job. This is true also in many parliamentary systems that started out with no form of judicial or constitutional review.

      A clear distinction can be made between the ability of regular judicial courts to interpret the constitution and declare laws unconstitutional and the ability of some extrajudicial or special judicial body to function in a similar manner, that is, to have some constitutional responsibility to ensure that laws conform to the constitution. The term judicial review is used when the constitutionality of laws is determined by ordinary judicial courts, and constitutional review is used when either a separate judicial body in the court system or an extrajudicial body determines the constitutionality of laws.

      In the United States the role of the federal courts in maintaining the integrity of the constitution was understood, if not expressly mentioned, by the framers. It took a specific declaration of the policy by the Supreme Court, however, to bring to life the principle of judicial review. Other countries—Germany, for example—have created a special court for the purpose of constitutional review; in France a constitutional council can implement constitutional review only when called on by other branches of the government.

      Under the historic model of the parliamentary constitutional system, the supremacy of the legislature over the other branches of government theoretically precludes any form of judicial review of legislation for constitutionality, because the same parliament that can pass a law with a simple majority could also change the constitution just as easily. But in most countries with a parliamentary system of government, some form of judicial or constitutional review has developed. The parliamentary form of government in Norway, for example, did not impede the growth of judicial review, although the power is used sparingly.

      In presidential systems of government, the constitution typically assigns the judicial branch the role of interpreting the law, while the legislature makes the laws and the executive enforces them. All three branches must join together to make the system work. In some countries, however, whether the national government is a presidential or parliamentary type, the courts’ role has been reduced to determining the prevailing winds from the executive branch and making their decisions accordingly; examples of fearless and inspiring decisions by courts faced with outright executive branch intimidation nonetheless can be found.

      The extrajudicial forms of constitutional review run the gamut from the power to strike down laws for not conforming to the constitution to merely a consultative role on proposed legislation if asked by other government authorities. It is difficult for the executive and legislative branches of any national governments to allow another independent branch to look over their shoulders and point out their mistakes. And just as certainly, excessive zeal by courts in the process of reviewing the actions of the executive and legislative branches can hamstring a government. But when judicial or constitutional review is engaged in conscientiously, it can result in fewer mistakes by government officials, a closer approximation of legislative and executive branch action to the standards set by the rule of law, and more effective enforcement of constitutional rights.

      Other Constitutional Bodies: A few constitutions contain unique provisions to deal with special situations, such as those establishing water authority boards in the Netherlands and institutions to accommodate the role of traditional or tribal leaders in a few African countries. The Philippines and Taiwan (the Republic of China) divide power among more than the three traditional branches of government. Unique provisions like these are generally noted in the text.

      Amending Constitutions

      That constitutions are not intended to be perfect is evidenced by expressly stated processes for revising or amending them. Constitutional change by means of an orderly procedure is far preferable to overthrowing a government by force whenever a country's constitution has fallen out of favor with a majority of its people. As President Abraham Lincoln said in his first inaugural address on March 4, 1861: “Whenever they [the American people] shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.”

      In fact, constitutions can be categorized on the basis of the ease with which they may be changed. “Flexible” constitutions, such as those of the United Kingdom and New Zealand, may be altered by a simple majority vote in the legislature. “Rigid” constitutions, as in the United States and Russia, have amendment procedures that require more than a simple majority vote of the legislature; how rigid they are depends on the degree of difficulty of the amending process, such as requiring supermajorities of the legislature and ratification by referendum or political subdivisions of the nation-state.

      The Future of Constitutions and Constitutionalism

      The most promising aspect of this age of constitutionalism is that the importance of structuring a national system of government to minimize the arbitrary and capricious use of power is at least generally recognized, if not always perfectly implemented. The elements of human nature that thwart efforts to create a predictable process for exercising political power in a nation-state are best minimized when citizens, in addition to having an adequate constitution, are educated and allowed free access to information inside and outside the country and when there is a broad-based entrepreneurial segment of society that demands stability, reasonableness, and predictability from the government.

      Stability and predictability under a national constitution are only the first goals. The next step is for all citizens to acknowledge that the right to rule and make rules—sovereignty—has to be shared by everyone in the nation. The fact that some citizens are chosen to actually wield executive, legislative, judicial, and other power is an expedience, because not everyone can spend the time on or develop the necessary expertise required for such jobs. It is much harder to maintain a political system reliant on coercion than one based on the consent of the governed; the blame for bad decision making can be shared in a democracy because leaders and lawmakers are chosen by the people. There must also be a willingness to allow the system to grow to include all adult citizens in the democratic process and to expand the access of the people to government decision making. The revolution wrought by the concept of constitutionalism must be an ongoing one, because if it stagnates, the only alternative is to return to the clearly inadequate undemocratic institutions of the past.

      The similarities and differences in the constitutions of the major countries of the world provide a fertile field for analyzing and comparing the structures of national governments. The temptation to conclude, however, that one constitution or structure is necessarily better than another should be avoided. Just as the work of the structural anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908–1990) shows that there is no hierarchy of human cultures, there appears to be no basis for believing in a hierarchy of constitutions. Some constitutions seem to work better than others, but too many variables—economic, social, political, geographical, and even human factors—must be considered when trying to determine why a constitution in a particular country seems to work well and one in another does not.

      Similarly, morality as such should not be a significant factor in analyzing constitutions, because morality finds its sources in aspects of human activity outside the law—in the family, religion, and philosophy, for example. A constitution is not just law; it is supreme law, as many constitutions declare on their face. Thus it is best that a constitution be as neutral as possible to the individual systems of morality at play within a nation. Constitutionalism, the ideal of governing on the basis of abstract principles of constitutional government, attempts to elevate the rule of law to such a high status that morality can be taught and appreciated and applied within the nation-state, leaving laws to deal solely with legally proscribed behavior.

      Listing every possible fundamental right in a constitutional document has far less impact on the morality of a nation than the ability of its citizens to call on the courts for protection of traditional liberties and uncompromising redress of violations by whatever culprit, public or private. The fact that there are now a number of international touchstones of civil and human rights—such as article 45 on human rights of the United Nations Charter (1945), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), the American Convention on Human Rights (1969), the Helsinki Final Act (Helsinki Accords) (1975), and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (1981)—can only help further the development of more humane nation-state governments. Another potential safeguard against abuse by government officials is the position of ombudsman, which has been established in a growing number of countries. The ombudsman, or other constitutionally authorized official or body, may investigate and act on citizens’ complaints that their constitutional rights have been infringed by government authorities.

      Constitutions of the World was undertaken to make important national constitutions understandable in terms of their history, organization, and operation as well as their stated goals for efficient and humane systems of government. An additional goal is that the book simply encourage wider interest in constitutions and the constitutional process.

      Constitutions at a Glance

    • Glossary

      Amparo. Protection against unlawful imprisonment, a concept first developed in Mexico and now incorporated into many constitutions of Latin American countries; similar to the writ of habeas corpus in common law countries.

      Assessors. Lay persons who assist judges in making decisions; often used in countries dominated by the Communist Party.

      Autogolpe. A self-coup d'etat, whereby a head of state or government who is in power constitutionally seizes control of the government extraconstitutionally, generally to thwart a loss of power by constitutional means.

      Bill of attainder. A pronouncement of guilt by legislative act for a crime such as treason, resulting in an extinction of civil rights, a forfeiture of property, and a “corruption of criminals’ blood” such that title to property could not be traced through them nor could they bring suit in court.

      Checks and balances. The principle of government organization that, along with separation of powers, gives the branches of government responsibilities for overseeing—checking—each other's actions; it also requires that the powers of each branch be relatively equal—balanced—to prevent one branch from becoming dominant.

      Common law. Legal precedents derived from the decisions of courts of law as opposed to equity courts or statutes. Common law countries are generally those that have derived their legal systems from England.

      Confederation. A league or group of states united for a common purpose, similar to an alliance.

      Constitutional. In accordance with or authorized by a constitution, thus legal; also, authority limited by a constitution, such as a constitutional monarchy.

      Constitutionalism. Adherence to constitutional principles, not necessarily to a particular constitution. A law that is not in conflict with the express provisions of a particular constitution may nevertheless be unconstitutional in a broader sense because it is in conflict with accepted constitutional norms.

      Coup d'etat. A change in government by unconstitutional means, usually by force. See also Autogolpe.

      Cour de cassation. The highest court of appeal in France and other countries.

      Crown. Originally, the sovereign; also now refers to the government under a constitutional monarchy, including the prime minister and other members of the cabinet who are said to carry out their official duties on behalf of the crown.

      Decree-law. An order by an officer of the executive branch of government that has the force of an enacted law and that in many cases must be authorized in advance or subsequently approved by the legislature; identical to a law-decree.

      Dominion. Derived from the British North America Act of 1867, which created “one Dominion under the name of Canada.” In the early 1900s the term also came to denote other countries in the British Empire that had a measure of self-government and that were not colonies, such as Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

      Entrenched provision. A section in a constitution that is protected from deletion or change by the ordinary process of amendment.

      Ex post facto law. Latin: made after the occurrence. Legislation that would have a retroactive effect, especially a criminal law.

      Federal state. A nation-state that distributes power vertically between a national government and state or provincial government units; the opposite of a unitary or completely centralized nation-state.

      Government. Generally, the combination of political institutions, laws, and customs through which the function of governing is carried out. Also refers to (1) the executive branch of a presidential constitutional system, as opposed to the administration alone, which consists of the political officeholders from the president on down; and (2) the cabinet, which in a constitutional parliamentary monarchy includes political officeholders.

      Habeas corpus. Latin: that you have the body. A writ or legal instrument developed in England to enforce obedience to the courts. It commands anyone, particularly a government official, to bring an imprisoned person before the court and explain the legal basis for detaining that person. Like the Latin American concept of amparo, it is a protection against illegal detention that is often incorporated into written constitutions.

      Imprescriptible. Inalienable, such as a right that is not subject to being taken away or lost.

      Interpellation. A procedure by which members of a parliament may formally question a member of the government or cabinet about an official action, policy, or personal conduct. If the inquiry is not answered to the satisfaction of the parliamentary majority, it may lead to a vote of no confidence in the official or the government as a whole and to a consequent resignation.

      Junta. A self-appointed body, generally of military officers, that often takes over after a coup d'etat.

      Law-decree. See Decree-law.

      Legitimist. One who bases the right to rule on the hereditary or “legitimate” right of the sovereign.

      List vote, party list system. A method of proportional representation using slates of political party candidates, or lists, in each electoral district. Winners of seats in the legislature are determined from the top of the list down based on the percentage of the vote the party receives in that district.

      Mandate. Authorization given by the League of Nations to a member country to administer a territory.

      Martial law. The suspension of ordinary constitutional government, in which enforcement of the law is carried out by the military rather than by civilian police.

      Ministry in waiting. The shadow cabinet or leaders of the minority party who would presumably hold cabinet positions were their party to become the majority party in a parliamentary system of government.

      Money bill. Appropriations legislation that authorizes the expenditure of government funds or revenue legislation that seeks to raise funds for the government, generally by taxation; often treated specially by legislatures in accordance with provisions of the constitution.

      Nation-state. The basic unit of territorial sovereignty in the modern world and the primary unit of international relations.

      Ombudsman. A position with authority to receive citizens’ complaints and to investigate wrongdoing or inefficiency on the part of government officials; the position was first established in Sweden and is generally filled by the legislature.

      Organic law. Legislation affecting the organization of government or another entity. It may or may not have constitutional status, but it usually requires more than a simple majority vote in the legislature. It may also be enacted to apply to possessions or territories of a nation-state.

      Party list system. See List vote.

      Plebiscite. A popular vote on a proposal or an expression of opinion by voters, especially on the choice of a government or a ruler; often used in English-language constitutions and English-language translations of constitutions in place of referendum.

      Plenary session. A meeting that all qualified members of a body attend.

      Prerogative. Discretionary power that is an attribute of sovereignty, such as the authority historically inherent in the British crown.

      Presidium. A permanent executive committee of a larger body, generally a legislature; often used in countries dominated by the Communist Party.

      Privy council. Originally, an advisory body to the crown; in the United Kingdom, now refers to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which consists of lords of appeal (law lords), who sit in the house of lords and hear final legal appeals.

      Proportional representation. Preference voting, in which voters in electoral districts may rank candidates so that second- and third-place votes count toward determining a winner if no single candidate receives more than fifty percent of the vote.

      Reading(s). Consideration of proposed legislation before passage. Parliamentary rules generally require that bills be read completely to the legislature before members are called on to vote. This literal procedure is frequently dispensed with, but constitutions or legislative procedures often provide that bills be debated during at least three readings, or votes, before a law may be considered to be passed.

      Referendum. The practice of submitting a proposed law, including a constitutional law, revision, or amendment, to a popular vote. See also Plebiscite.

      Rescript. A form of official order, decree, or announcement.

      Res judicata. A matter that has already been judicially decided and therefore conclusive unless the determination is reversed.

      Ridings. An administrative or electoral district, especially in Canada.

      Rule of law. A standard for holding government officials to the same substantive law to which all citizens are subject; generally, government by laws rather than by people. The term is mentioned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).

      Separation of powers. A constitutional principle that divides the power of government into three functions or branches: making the laws (legislative), interpreting the laws (judicial), and enforcing the laws (executive). This formal division is designed to prevent tyranny or a monopoly of government power in the hands of a single person or group. It was first described by the Greek scientist and philosopher Aristotle and restated by the French lawyer and philosopher Montesquieu in his Spirit of the Laws (1748). See also Checks and balances.

      Shadow cabinet. See Ministry in waiting.

      Single transferable vote. A method of proportional representation, similar to a list vote, but in which voters using a multiparty ballot rank various candidates first, second, third, and so on, without confining choices to one party.

      Soviet. Russian: council. A legislature-like body in the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; also, a U.S.S.R. resident or the government.

      Unitary state. A nation-state in which sovereignty is not shared vertically with other units such as states or provinces; not a federal state.

      Veto. The refusal of an executive officer, generally the president of a country, to assent to the passage of a law where his or her assent is required for the law to become effective.

      Writ. A legal instrument to enforce obedience to an authority, generally a court of law.


      Materials used in researching Constitutions of the World were obtained for the most part from the governments of the countries and from original sources available at the Law Library of the Library of Congress, Law Library of the George Washington University National Law Center, and International Law Institute, all in Washington, D.C., as well as the United Nations Library in New York.

      Basic reference works for general information and historical background on each country were the Area Handbook series (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1979–94); the World Today series (Washington, D.C., and Harpers Ferry, W. Va.: Stryker-Post Publications, 2000); Banks, Arthur S., Thomas C. Muller, and William R. Overstreet, eds, Political Handbook of the World: 2007 (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2007); and the CIA World Factbook, online. Reference works on constitutional materials, in addition to constitutional documents and materials provided by the governments of the countries, were Albert P. Blaustein and Gisbert H. Flanz, Constitutions of the Countries of the World looseleaf service (Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.: Oceania Publications, various dates); Kenneth Robert Redden, ed., Modern Legal Systems Cyclopedia looseleaf service (Buffalo, N.Y.: William S. Hein, various dates); Amos J. Peaslee, Constitutions of Nations (Concord, N.H.: Runford Press, 1950, 3 vols.; The Hague, the Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff, 1965, rev. 3d ed., 4 vols.); and Michal Rozbicki, ed., European and American Constitutionalism in the Eighteenth Century (Warsaw, Poland: American Studies Center, Warsaw University, 1990).

      In addition to the above sources, major materials consulted for individual countries include the following:


      Fukuyama, Francis, ed. Nation-Building: Beyond Afghanistan and Iraq (Forum for Constructive Capitalism). Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005.


      Vickers, Miranda, and James Pettifer. Albania: From Anarchy to Balkan Identity. New York: New York University Press, 1997.


      Ageron, Charles-Robert. Modern Algeria: A History from 1830 to the Present. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 1990.

      Hanks, Peter. Constitutional Law in Australia. Adelaide: Butterworths, 1991.


      Lane, Patrick H. Manual of Australian Constitutional Law. Sydney: Law Book Company, 1991.


      Landfried, Christine, ed. Constitutional Review and Legislation: An International Comparison. Baden-Baden, Germany: Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, 1988.


      Alen, André, ed. Treatise on Belgian Constitutional Law. Deventer, the Netherlands: Kluwer Law and Taxation Publishers, 1992.

      Bosnia and Herzegovina

      Donia, Robert J. Bosnia and Hercegovina: A Tradition Betrayed. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.


      Dolinger, Jacob, and Keith S. Rosenn, eds. A Panorama of Brazilian Law. Miami: North-South Center, University of Miami, 1992.


      Bumsted, J. M. The Peoples of Canada: A Pre-Confederation History. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1992.

      Laskin, John B., Edward L. Greenspan, Marc Rosenberg, Michael A. Penny, and Marie Henein, eds. The Canadian Charter of Rights, Annotated. Aurora, Ontario: Canada Law Book, 1993.

      Strayer, Barry L. “Canada, the Canadian Constitution and Diversity.” In Forging Unity Out of Diversity: The Approach of Eight Nations, edited by Robert A. Goldwin, Art Kaufman, and William A. Schambra. Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 1989.


      Codevilla, Angelo. “Is Pinochet the Model?” Foreign Affairs, November–December 1993, 127–40.


      Black, George, and Robin Munro. Black Hands of Beijing: Lives of Defiance in China's Democracy Movement. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1993.

      Chiu, Thomas C. W., Ian R. Dobinson, and Mark Findlay. Legal Systems of the PRC. Hong Kong: Longman Group (Far East), 1991.

      Jones, William C. “The Constitution of the People's Republic of China.” In Constitutional Systems in Late Twentieth-Century Asia, edited by Lawrence W. Beer. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1992.


      Oppenheimer, Andres. Castro's Final Hour: The Secret Story Behind the Coming Downfall of Communist Cuba. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992.


      Gammeltoft-Hansen, Hans, Bernhard Gomaed, and Allan Philip. Danish Law: A General Survey. Copenhagen: g-e-c Gads, 1982.


      Saleh, Ibrahim. “The Writing of the Egyptian Constitution.” In Constitution Makers on Constitution Making: The Experience of Eight Nations, edited by Robert A. Goldwin and Art Kaufman. Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 1988.


      Häikiö, Martti. A Brief History of Modern Finland. Helsinki: University of Finland, 1992.

      Uotila, Jaakko, ed. The Finnish Legal System. Helsinki: Finnish Lawyers Publishing, 1985.


      Bell, John. French Constitutional Law. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

      Foyer, Jean. “The Drafting of the French Constitution of 1958.” In Constitution Makers on Constitution Making: The Experience of Eight Nations, edited by Robert A. Goldwin and Art Kaufman. Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 1988.

      Price, Roger. A Concise History of France. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1993.


      Fulbrook, Mary. A Concise History of Germany. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

      Hucko, Elmar M. The Democratic Tradition: Four German Constitutions. Providence, R.I.: Berg Publishers, 1987.

      Wellenreuther, Hermann, ed. German and American Constitutional Thought: Contexts, Interaction, and Historical Realities. Providence, R.I.: Berg Publishers, 1990.


      Elias, Taslim Olamale. Ghana and Sierra Leone: The Development of Their Laws and Constitutions. London: Stevens and Sons, 1962.


      Clogg, Richard. A Concise History of Greece. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

      Kerameus, Konstantinos D., and Phaedon J. Kozyris, eds. Introduction to Greek Law. Deventer, the Netherlands: Kluwer Law and Taxation Publishers, 1988.

      Tsatsos, Constantine D. “Making the Constitution of Greece.” In Constitution Makers on Constitution Making: The Experience of Eight Nations, edited by Robert A. Goldwin and Art Kaufman. Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 1988.


      Nariman, Fali Sam. “The Indian Constitution: An Experiment in Unity amid Diversity.” In Forging Unity Out of Diversity: The Approach of Eight Nations, edited by Robert A. Goldwin, Art Kaufman, and William A. Schambra. Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 1989.


      Hunter, Shireen T. Iran After Khomeini. New York: Praeger, 1992.


      Amin, S.H. The Legal System of Iraq. Glasgow: Royston Publishers, 1989.


      Casey, James. Constitutional Law in Ireland. London: Sweet and Maxwell, 1992. Foster, Robert Fitzroy. Modern Ireland: 1600–1972. London: Penguin Books, 1988.


      Ginsborg, Paul. A History of Contemporary Italy: Society and Politics, 1943–1988. New York: Penguin Books, 1990.

      Rubino-Sammartano, Mauro, and Girolamo Abbatescianni. “Italy.” In World Litigation Law and Practice. Vol. b2, edited by Ronald E. Myrick. New York: Matthew Bender, 1986.


      Reischauer, Edwin O. Japan: The Story of a Nation. New York: Knopf, 1989


      Dabolins, Aigars, and Dabolinsh Aigars. Latvia: A Gudie Book. Kaunas, Lithuania: Puse Publishers, 1993.


      El-Gemayel, Antoine. The Lebanese Legal System. Washington, D.C.: International Law Institute, 1985.


      Benson, Leslie. Yugoslavia: A Concise History. New York: Palgrave, 2001.


      Ibrahim, Ahmad, and M. P. Jain. “The Constitution of Malaysia and the American Constitutional Influence.” In Constitutional Systems in Late Twentieth-Century Asia, edited by Lawrence W. Beer. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1992.

      SuYan, Tun Mohamed, H. P. Lee, and F. A. Trindade, eds. The Constitution of Malaysia, 1957–1977. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1978.


      Petrov, Victor P. Mongolia: A Profile. New York: Praeger, 1970.


      Silber, Laura, and Allan Little. Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation. New York: TV Books, Inc./Penguin USA, 1996.

      The Netherlands

      Kortmann, Constantijn A.J.M., and Paul P. T. Bovend'Eert. The Kingdom of the Netherlands: An Introduction to Dutch Constitutional Law. Deventer, the Netherlands: Kluwer Law and Taxation Publishers, 1993.

      New Zealand

      Mulholland, Raymond Douglas. Introduction to the New Zealand Legal System. Wellington: Butterworths, 1990.

      North Korea

      Cho, Sung Yoon. Law and Legal Literature of North Korea: A Guide. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1988.


      Victorin, Anders, ed. Scandinavian Studies in Law. Vol. 35. Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell International, 1991.


      Duncan, Emma. Breaking the Curfew: A Political Journey through Pakistan. London: Michael Joseph, 1989.


      Krauss, Clifford. “Inside Central America: Its People, Politics, and History.” In Panama: A Nation Without Heroes. New York: Summit Books, 1991.

      The Philippines

      Ferando, Enrique M., and Emma Quisumbing-Ferando. “The 1987 Constitution of the Philippines: The Impact of American Constitutionalism Revisited.” In Constitutional Systems in Late Twentieth-Century Asia, edited by Lawrence W. Beer. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1992.


      Wagner, Wenceslas J., ed. Polish Law throughout the Ages. Stanford, Calif.: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University, 1970.


      Birmingham, David. A Concise History of Portugal. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1993.


      Daniels, Robert V. End of the Communist Revolution. London: Routledge, 1993.

      Saudi Arabia

      Amin, S.H. Middle East Legal Systems. Glasgow: Royston Publishers, 1985.

      South Africa

      Carpenter, Gretchen. Introduction to South African Constitutional Law. Durban: Butterworths, 1987.

      South Korea

      Kim, Tscholsu, and Sang Don Lee. “Influences of U.S. Constitutional Law Doctrines in Korea.” In Constitutional Systems in Late Twentieth-Century Asia, edited by Lawrence W. Beer. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1992.


      Bonime-Blanc, Andrea. Spain's Transition to Democracy: The Politics of Constitution-Making. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1987.

      Llorente, Francisco Rubio. “The Writing of the Constitution of Spain.” In Constitution Makers on Constitution Making: The Experience of Eight Nations, edited by Robert A. Goldwin and Art Kaufman. Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 1988.


      Al-Wahab, Ibrahim. The Swedish Institution of Ombudsman. Stockholm: LiberFörlag, 1979.

      Strömholm, Stig, ed. An Introduction to Swedish Law. Stockholm: P. A. Norstedt and Söners Förlag, 1981.


      Dessemontet, F., and T. Ansay, eds. Introduction to Swiss Law. Deventer, the Netherlands: Kluwer Law and Taxation Publishers, 1983.

      Kaufmann, Otto. “Swiss Federalism.” In Forging Unity Out of Diversity: The Approach of Eight Nations, edited by Robert A. Goldwin, Art Kaufman, and William A. Schambra. Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 1989.


      Shakya, Tsering. The Dragon in the Land of Snows: A History of Modern Tibet. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.


      Magocsi, Paul R. A History of Ukraine. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996

      United Kingdom

      Elton, Geoffrey. The English. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1992.

      Halsbury's Laws of England. Vol. 8. London: Butterworths, 1974.

      Halsbury's Statutes of England and Wales. Vol. 10. London: Butterworths, 1985.

      United States

      Abrahamson, Shirley S. “The State and Federal Courts of the United States as Guardians of Individual Rights.” In Law, Justice, and the Judiciary: Transnational Trends, edited by Tun M. S. Abas and Visu Sinnadurai. Kuala Lumpur: Professional (Law) Book Publishers, 1988.

      Glazer, Nathan. “The Constitution and American Diversity.” In Constitution Makers on Constitution Making: The Experience of Eight Nations, edited by Robert A. Goldwin and Art Kaufman. Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 1988.

      Loss, Richard, ed. Corwin on the Constitution. Vol. 1. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1981.

      Mitchell, Ralph. CQ's Guide to the Constitution of the United States. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, 1998.

      Rakove, Jack N. Commentary on “Writing the Constitution of the United States,” by Walter Berns. In Forging Unity Out of Diversity: The Approach of Eight Nations, edited by Robert A. Goldwin, Art Kaufman, and William A. Schambra. Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 1989.


      Manrique, Gustavo Planchart. “The Making of the Venezuelan Constitution.” In Constitution Makers on Constitution Making: The Experience of Eight Nations, edited by Robert A. Goldwin and Art Kaufman. Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 1988.

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