If you have have been searching through the internet to know the differences between a rigid and flexible constitution, then you are in the right place. In this article I will clearly highlight the basic differences between a rigid and flexible constitution. I enjoin you to seat calmly and read this work so that you will be able to grasp everything I will discuss here.
One of the topics I loved so much during my secondary school days is the Types of constitution. In those days, my political science teacher used to take her time to explain everything to the class. She would tell us the the advantages, disagreement, criticism and even problems of every type of constitution. However, she never said anything about the similarities or differences between some of the types of constitutions and that was a big problem.
Even though I understood the meaning of all the types of constitution she thought, I was unable to differentiate between them. This continued until when I was about to represent my school in a political science competition. On preparing for the competition, I came a cross a book that really exposed me to the differences between the different between the types of constitution.
In today’s article, i will be sharing with you the differences between a rigid and flexibile constitution. This is equally an eye opener to young students all over the world on this topic. But before I will move to the crux of this work, i would like to, first of all, describe a rigid and flexibile constitution. This will go a long way to help you understand the differences as we continue. Now! Here we go!
What is a flexible constitution?
A flexible constitution is a constitution which can easily be amended or changed without a cumbersome procedure. A flexible constitution may be amended just like any statute with a simple majority of votes of the members of the parliament. A flexible constitution may be an unwritten constitution, such as, the constitution of Britain and New Zealand. However, most times a flexible constitution is written and it is usually in the form of a unitary constitution.
Advantages of a flexible constitution
Below are the advantages of a flexible constitution:
It is easy to amend:
A flexible constitution is usually easy to amend. It is unlike a rigid constitution. The procedure for amending a flexible constitution is not cumbersome, long expensive, time or energy consuming. This is why it is called a flexible constitution.
It allows quick action:
Since a flexible constitution is very easy to amend, the constitution actually allows quick action to be taken in the interest of the nation in time of emergency. This is one of the major advantages of a flexible constitution you should know.
A flexible constitution is easily adaptable to meet the changing social, economic and political needs and developments of a country. This time of constitution is good for a small country, kindred people or a homogeneous population.
Disadvantages of a flexible constitution
It leads to dictatorship:
Due to the ease of amendment, a flexible constitution may be amended hastily and unwisely for a selfish or sectional purpose. This may encourage the rise of dictatorship, as a person, or a cabal with dictatorial propensity may amend it to advance such desires.
Lack of stability:
A flexible construction does not ensure political stability as a ruler, cabal or majority can amend the constitution to favour its interest. This is one of the major criticisms of a flexible constitution.
A flexible constitution by its nature does not protect the interest of minority, disadvantaged or despised people. It does not allay the fear of ethnic domination of the minority by the majority people or religion in a multi-ethnic country.
Only suitable for a heterogeneous state:
A flexible constitution just like an unwritten and unitary constitution, is wholly suitable for a multi-ethnic, multi-religious or heterogeneous population. A flexible constitution is a dangerous and fearful foundation to build a country that has a diverse population.
What is a rigid constitution?
A rigid constitution is a constitution which has a cumbersome or long amendment procedure. The procedure for amending a rigid constitution is different from the procedure for enacting and amending the ordinary laws of the land. The enactment or amendment of an ordinary law is usually usually easy. However, the procedure for amending a rigid constitution may include an absolute majority.
A rigid constitution is usually in writing or a written constitution. However, a written constitution is not always rigid, but may be flexible and easy to amend. Countries that have rigid constitution includes: United States, Canada, France, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa etc.
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Advantages of a rigid constitution
Political powers are expressly stated:
A rigid constitution is usually a written constitution, spelling out the powers and duties of the arms of government and the rights and duties of the constituent parts of the country and the individuals.
Careful deliberation on constitutional matters
A rigid constitution allows for careful consideration before any amendment is made to the constitution. Trust me; this is the major advantage of a written constitution. It helps to ensure that amendment that is made to the constitution will be duly deliberated before it is made.
A rigid constitution constitution where every arm of government is functioning maximally with checks and balances and not at the pleasure of executive, does not encourage the emergence of a dictator, because an individual, or cabal with dictatorial propensity cannot easily hoodwinked the legislature which represents the people.
Stability in government:
It ensure political stability of the country because, no section can single handedly amend the constitution to its own favour.
Protection of the minority:
A rigid constitution protects minority peoples and other disadvantaged groups. It allays the fear of ethnic domination by majority people in multi-ethnic country like Nigeria because guarantees, such as the fundamental human rights, federal character and so forth, which have been enshrined in the constitution for the protection of the minorities, cannot be easily amended and thrown away to their detriment.
Disadvantages of a rigid constitution
It is difficult to amend:
The procedure for amending or changing a rigid constitution is cumbersome and long. It is expensive, time and energy consuming for various legislature to amend the provision in question, or ratify the amendment and conduct a referendum for the people to affirm or approve the amendment under consideration.
It does not meet the needs of the people:
A rigid constitution does not easily meet the dynamic social, economic and political needs and development of people especially where it does not have an active, visionary and progressive judiciary that will liberally interpret the constitution to accommodate and meet the constantly changing needs of the country and its people.
The cumbersome procedure of a rigid constitution and the unwillingness of the majority or other sections of the country to join in the effort to amen the constitution to assuage the feelings of people or section of the country who feel marginalized may lead to the rise of various ethnic militia, separate movement and so forth, which may lead to commotion, military take over and so forth, that may result in the constitution being jettisoned as a whole and another one being adopted at a furture date in the replacement of it, with a view to correct the fault which could not be corrected in the earlier one.
With what I have discussed so far, I am sure you have been able to pick points some of the differences between a rigid and flexible construction already. Nonetheless, I will still give you a comprehensive explanation of the differences between flexible and rigid constitution as we continue.
Differences between rigid and flexible constitution
Below are the differences between a rigid and flexible constitution:
- A rigid constitution cannot be easily amended. The procedure for Amending the constitution is usually cumbersome, expensive and time consuming whereas, a flexible constitution can be easily amended. Unlike a rigid constitution that must require two-third majority of the parliament to amend the constitution, a flexible constitution may only require a simple majority.
- A rigid constitution brings about a stable government whereas, there is no stability in a flexible constitution. This type of constitution can easily be tempered with and may change easily. But there is stability in government with a rigid constitution, since it cannot be easily changed to suit the interest of just one person.
- A rigid constitution is suitable for a federal system of government. That is, a government with a heterogeneous population. On the other hand, a flexible government is more suitable for a unitary system of government with a homogeneous population.
- A rigid constitution always lead to an ideal and desirable change or amendment by the government. Whereas, there may not be an ideal or desirable change of the constitution by the government in a flexible constitution. Since the constitution is easy to amend, the government can change the content of the constitution for their interest.
- A rigid constitution is usually in writing or a written constitution whereas, a flexible constitution may be in written or unwritten form. This point has already been explained in the advantages and disadvantages stated above.
Oh yeah! There you have the major differences between a rigid and flexible constitution. If you know a friend or anyone close to you who doesn’t know these differences yet, don’t hesitate to share this article with him or her. Meanwhile, I would love to hear your contributions to this article. Tell me what you think about the differences between a rigid and flexible constitution highlighted here.
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.