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

Transport: Auckland Looks To Light Rail

The Board of Auckland Transport has called for an investigation into a light rail network, which could relieve traffic congestion on some of the region’s busiest roads.

This stems from work in 2012 (the City Centre Future Access study) which responded to a government request to develop a robust and achievable solution for access to the CBD.

That showed that the City Rail Link, together with surface bus improvement, provided the best regional solution. However, it also identified that the city centre is already facing serious congestion across all major road entry points which, if not addressed now, will worsen. More>>

 

RMA: Smith's Claims Don't Match Evidence - Greens

The Motu group’s research into the impacts of planning rules looked at the costs related to housing development but not the benefits of environmental protections and does not recommend significant changes to the RMA to reduce the cost of new house builds. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Similarities Between John Key And David Cameron

For years now, David Cameron has been the closest available thing to a mentor/analogue to our Prime Minister, such that Key watchers could be interested in an analysis of Cameron that appeared in the British press over the Christmas break. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Ian Fletcher Resignation & GCSB’s New Role

It may well be that after being shoulder-tapped in Queensland for the GCSB job, three years of living in Wellington has been enough for Fletcher and his family, given that the pending review of the GCSB would have required an even longer commitment from him. Three years of Wellington’s weather is enough for anyone... More>>

ALSO:

Ian Apperley: $10m Or $100m For New Wellington Council IT System?

I feel a Tui Billboard coming on. I commented the other day that it looked like the Council’s Ninth big project was a potential $100 million plus... The Mayor has responded: “I am reassured by the Chief Executive and by Anthony Wilson that the proposed budget is in the region of $10 million.” More>>

ALSO:

Southern Ocean:
Navy Intercepts Illegal Fishing Vessels

Foreign Minister Murray McCully today put illegal fishing vessels operating in the Southern Ocean on notice and vowed to take action against their owners. “As part of a multi-agency operation, the HMNZS WELLINGTON has intercepted two vessels claiming to be flagged to Equatorial Guinea, fishing illegally in the Southern Ocean.” Mr McCully says. More>>

ALSO:

Kiwi Pride: New Zealand Takes UN Security Council Seat

“New Zealand’s term on the Security Council will place us at the heart of international decision-making for the next two years,” Mr McCully says. More>>

Greens: CAA Airport Door Report Conflicts With Brownlee’s Claims

The heavily redacted report into the incident shows conflicting versions of events as told by Gerry Brownlee and the Christchurch airport security staff. The report disputes Brownlee’s claim that he was allowed through, and states that he instead pushed his way through. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Politics
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news