Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search

 


Third way’ enables constitutional change by popular demand

Third way’ enables constitutional change by popular demand


People should have the power to create a new constitution whenever they wish, but very few countries actually allow that to happen, according to Law lecturer Dr Joel Colón-Ríos.

Dr Colón-Ríos, who is the author of Weak Constitutionalism: Democratic Legitimacy and the Question of Constituent Power, published in 2012, says there is often a clash between constitutionalism, “which in the last instance is about telling people the things they shouldn’t do,” and democracy, “which is about telling people they can govern themselves in any way they want”.

“My research interest is looking at ways in which different constitutional systems deal with this tension.”

The traditional approach, followed by countries such as the United States, Canada and Germany, is to have a written, and supreme, constitution that cannot be changed by mechanisms such as popular initiatives and referendums.

A handful of other countries, including New Zealand, have no supreme constitution but allow Parliament to make constitutional changes without the direct intervention of the people.

“Underlying this is a fear in many societies that if people are given the power to bring about important constitutional changes outside the ordinary institutions of government, they will make bad choices.”

Puerto Rican-born Dr Colón-Ríos is interested in a third way, currently followed by just three Latin American countries, which he says comes closer to achieving the ideals of both constitutionalism and democracy.

Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela have created a process that allows for the constitution to be reformed or rewritten if there is enough popular demand.

In these countries, if a percentage of eligible voters (which ranges from 12–20 percent in the three countries) sign a petition, government is required to call a binding referendum on whether a special assembly should be convened to rewrite the constitution. The new constitution must then be ratified in another referendum.

“This procedure has never been used,” says Dr Colón-Ríos, “but it’s interesting to see the emergence of constitutions that allow for their own replacement, albeit through highly democratic procedures. Usually, constitutions aspire for the opposite—to be permanent.”

Dr Colón-Ríos says that because these Latin American constitutions were adopted after much controversy, “they tend to be regarded with suspicion and as temporary anomalies,” but he thinks their approach has a lot going for it.

“It provides a check on government—elected officials have to be careful because they know the people can replace the entire constitutional order at any moment.”

Dr Colón-Ríos is now working on his next book which focuses on the way in which judges, government officials, and citizens have used, and do use, the concept of constituent power in different legal contexts.

ends

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Joint Statement: Establishment Of NZ-China Strategic Partnership

At the invitation of Governor-General Lt Gen The Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae and Prime Minister The Rt Hon John Key of New Zealand, President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China made a state visit to New Zealand from 19 to 21 November 2014.

During his visit, President Xi Jinping met with Governor-General Jerry Mateparae, and held talks with Prime Minister John Key. The leaders had an in-depth exchange of views on bilateral relations as well as regional and international issues of common interest. More>>

 
 

Parliament Today:

Savings Targets: Health Procurement Plan Changes Direction

Next steps in implementing DHB shared services programme Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says the Government has agreed to explore a proposal put forward by DHBs to move implementation of the shared services programme to a DHB-owned vehicle. More>>

ALSO:

More on Health Policy:

Auckland Unification: 'No IT Cost Blowout' (Just More Expensive)

Following discussion of an update on Auckland Council’s Information Services Transformational Programme at today’s Finance and Performance Committee, council has released the report publicly. More>>

ALSO:

Other Expensive Things:

Gordon Campbell: On The SAS Role Against Islamic State, And Podemos

Only 25% of the US bombing runs are even managing to locate IS targets worth bombing. As the NYT explains at length, this underlines the need for better on-the-ground intelligence to direct the air campaign to where the bad guys have holed up... More>>

ALSO:

Public Service: Commission Calls For Answers On Handling Of CERA Harassment

EEO Commissioner Dr Jackie Blue is deeply concerned about the way in which the State Services Commission has handled sexual allegations made against CERA chief executive Roger Sutton this week and is calling for answers. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell:
On Andrew Little’s Victory

So Andrew Little has won the leadership – by the narrowest possible margin – from Grant Robertson, and has already been depicted by commentators as being simultaneously (a) the creature of the trade unions and (b) the most centrist of the four candidates, which would be an interesting trick to see someone try in a game of Twister. More>>

ALSO:

China President Wishlists: Greens Welcome Xi, But Human Rights Need To Be On Agenda

“President Xi has made some progress on climate change, but he must also lift the Chinese government’s game on human rights issues,” Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman said... It is important that our Government continues to urge the Chinese government to show restraint and respect human rights in both Tibet and the Xinjiang province.” More>>

ALSO:

Airport Security Breach: CAA Fines Minister

Minister Brownlee has been issued an infringement notice and is required to pay a $2000 infringement fine for breaching Civil Aviation Rule 19.357(b), which states no person may be in an airport security area without an appropriate identity card or document. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Politics
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news