A constitution is a legal document that outlines the government’s structure and the basic principles of ruling and governing a nation. Many countries have some sort of guidelines that function this way and can be in the form of a written or unwritten constitution.
Without this set of rules, a state can’t function properly, and there would be anarchy. While the constitution doesn't cover every issue, it’s mandatory to address fundamental matters like the distribution and the use of power. Examples of countries with constitutions include:
Afghanistan Bolivia Albania Cameroon Algeria Chile Andorra Chad Bahamas Angola Benin Argentina Botswana Armenia Cuba Djibouti Denmark Egypt Fiji Finland France Gabon Haiti Guniea-Bissau Italy Ireland Japan China North Korea South Korea Kuwait Malawi Malta Peru Poland Qatar Portugal Philippines Kenya Rwanda Saint Lucia Russia Sierra Leone Seychelles South Africa Sri Lanka South Sudan Uganda Turkey Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe
Matters Addressed in a Constitution
A constitution addresses the legal, political, and social dimensions of a country. The legal dimension deals with:
The legislative process The independence of the judiciary The protection of human rights of citizens The power of the Supreme Court to invalidate legislation How to change the constitution
The document also addresses the political aspects relating to its governance, division, and separation of power between the three arms of government, the election process, and the relationship between the central, local, and provincial state entities.
When it comes to the social dimension, the constitution declares certain ideals that are typical for its citizens.
Types of Constitution
A constitution can be codified or uncodified. A codified constitution is written in a single document and is often a product of drastic political change. Its legitimacy is tied to the process used to adopt it, and many countries with codified constitutions experience a high constitutional turnover.
However, they give the constitution supremacy over ordinary statute law. This means if there’s a conflict between the codified constitution and a legal statute, all or part of the statute can be declared unconstitutional by the court.
On the other hand, an uncodified constitution is one where the fundamental rules take the form of customs, precedent, usage, and a variety of legal instruments and statutes. An understanding of this kind of constitution is obtained by the government, the judiciary, legal experts, or the government committees.
Uncodified constitution is more adaptable, flexible, and resilient because all its elements may be (or maybe not) recognized by legislators and the courts as binding upon the government. It is this framework that’s sometimes referred to as an unwritten constitution. However, all the elements of an uncodified constitution are written in different official documents though not codified in one document.