Advantages and disadvantages of flexible constitution: A constitution is a set of rules and regulations which groups of people, organization, or country choose to be governed by. It also functions as a body of fundamental principles and precedent, which serve as a legal framework for which the affairs of a society or country is run. It outlines the mode of government, how they will be elected, and how they can be impeacWhat is advantages and disadvantages of flexible constitution? What are the Merits and Demerits of Flexible Constitution? Meaning of a flexible constitutionhed or dissolved. It is the piece of document where other r documents derive their legitimacy.
A constitution can either be written or unwritten, rigid or flexible depending on the system the lawmakers want to adopt.
A written constitution is a constitution that has been systematically and thoroughly written down and contained in one text. An unwritten constitution is one where the government’ core rules and regulations are not contained in a single text. A rigid constitution is one that requires a unique mode of amendment and is usually written.
In a flexible constitution, there is no difference between enacted statutes and the constitution. It is distinguishable by its unwritten nature which makes the parliament, sovereign. The major feature of flexible constitution is that the mode of amendment does not require a special procedure. Hence, the parliament is supreme as they can change any law including the constitution by an ordinary act of legislative procedure. A good example of a flexible constitution is that of Great Britain, the oldest country with a flexible constitution. It is important to note the British courts have no reviewing authority over any enactment made in the country, they are limited to interpretation.
To fully understand this kind of constitution, we will examine the advantages and disadvantages of a flexible constitution.
Advantages of a flexible constitution
1. Ease of amendment: This is the trademark of a flexible constitution, it is easy to amend. There is no special procedure set up for its amendment. The legislature can sit as they would when passing any otter statute, to pass an amendment of the constitution.
In a rigid constitution, like in Nigeria, before the constitution can be amended, there has to be a constitutional referendum set up with all the states of the federation having representatives and the changes to be made must be consented by more than two thirds of their number. In the UK, New Zealand, UAE etc., these are not required.
2. It evolves with time: A flexible constitution evolves with the current trends of the people its binds. What was obtainable years ago in Great Britain, might not be obtainable now. Same way constitutional provisions that exist, some did not exist ten, twenty years ago.
That is because thee parliament can easily amend the constitution to fit the current needs of the people in that particular time frame as society evolves with time, a good constitution with the interest of the people at heart must evolve with time.
3. It prevents revolution: A lot of revolution that have happened in time past is because of archaic provisions which no longer apply to the citizens in a particular era (time) anymore. If citizens start protesting for a particular amendment to be made to the constitution, and it takes too much time or procedure to amen, the citizens might grow impatient and start a revolution.
For example, years ago, there were no defined provision of rights for women in the constitutions throughout the world, there was an uprise and call for the inclusion of these persons as equal humans with rights. If the constitution was rigid and the government did not affect such change as the people wanted, it can lead to violence and likely a revolution.
4. It is efficient in case of an emergency: Emergencies might occur where the constitution did not provide for and there might be an urgent need for that provision. In a flexible constitution state, the legislature/ parliament can simply sit for the amendment to be effected. It could take at most five days to complete the amendment process.
In the US constitution, which is rigid one, it provides that the presidential election must be held after every four years in peace or war. Imagine a general election during the war. If it was a flexible constitution, that constitutional provisions could have been easily amended.
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5. It is best for a developing country: A flexible constitution is best applied in a developing country because it follows the natural growth and development of the country. This is because it reflects the principles of civil and political liberty. It also ensures legal and organized growth as it meets new emergencies as they emerge.
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Disadvantages of flexible constitution
1. It cannot work in a federal system: The entire essence of a federal system of government is to ensure delimitation of powers between the central and constituent state governments. If a federal state adopts a flexible constitution, the central government might amend the constitution to focus all the powers on themselves thereby rendering the state government powerless.
In the same vein, the constituent states may act independently without regard for the constitution as it is unstable. One of the reasons for the success of a flexible constitution in the UK is due to the unitary form of government and because the people have the same history and culture.
2. It is passion driven: A flexible constitution is ever passion driven and such passions rise and fall appear and disappear. Constitutional provisions should not be governed by emotions but logical reasoning. Decisions made with passion might end up being detrimental to the peace and stability of the state.
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3. Fundamental human rights may be affected: There is no assurance that the government will not suffocate or completely erase the fundamental human rights of citizens from the constitution. The parliament/ legislature can seize the easy amendment of a flexible constitution to derive citizens their fundamental rights especially the ones that provides for citizens to question/ protest the acts of the government.
4. It may suit just the interests of a few: Due to its ease of change, a flexible constitution maybe exploited to suit the need of a selected few who are or might be in the majority of those who can make those constitutional changes. While the interests of others is ignored.
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5. Political instability: Changing the provisions of the constitution frequently leads to political instability and weaken the power of what the constitution stands for. It would mean that more powers vests in the parliament and not the constitution itself. The ruling party may and can amend the constitution to make fit their interests and allow them stay longer in power. This can lead to dictatorship and autocracy.
For a flexible constitution to be effective, it must be vested in the hands of politically educated and politically upright few. In conclusion we can say the flexible constitution is not in its entirety the best form of constitution and in actual reality, no constitution is wholly rigid or flexible.
Edeh Samuel Chukwuemeka ACMC, is a Law Student and a Certified Mediator/Conciliator in Nigeria. He is also a Developer with knowledge in HTML, CSS, JS, PHP and React Native. Samuel is bent on changing the legal profession by building Web and Mobile Apps that will make legal research a lot easier.