A constituent assembly or constitutional assembly is a body or
assembly of popularly elected representatives composed for the purpose
of drafting or adopting a constitution. The constituent assembly is a
subset of a constitutional convention elected entirely by popular
vote; that is, all constituent assemblies are constitutional
conventions, but a constitutional convention is not necessarily a
constituent assembly. As the fundamental document constituting a
state, a constitution cannot normally be modified or amended by the
state's normal legislative procedures; instead a constitutional
convention or a constituent assembly, the rules for which are normally
laid down in the constitution, must be set up. A constituent assembly
is usually set up for its specific purpose, which it carries out in a
relatively short time, after which the assembly is dissolved. A
constituent assembly is a form of representative democracy.
Unlike forms of constitution-making in which a constitution is
unilaterally imposed by a sovereign lawmaker, the constituent assembly
creates a constitution through "internally imposed" actions, in that
members of the constituent assembly are themselves citizens, but not
necessarily the rulers, of the country for which they are creating a
constitution. As described by Columbia University Social Sciences
Professor Jon Elster:
Constitutions arise in a number of different ways. At the
non-democratic extreme of the spectrum, we may imagine a sovereign
lawgiver laying down the constitution for all later generations. At
the democratic extreme, we may imagine a constituent assembly elected
by universal suffrage for the sole task of writing a new constitution.
And there are all sorts of intermediate arrangements.
1.1 Costa Rica
1.9 Sri Lanka
1.11 United States
2 Countries without an entrenched constitution
3 See also
Main article: Constituent Assembly of Costa Rica
Right after the 1948
Costa Rican Civil War
Costa Rican Civil War that overthrow Rafael Angel
Calderón Government, the leaders of the victorious side call for an
election of a Constituent Assembly in the same year. The Assembly
successfully drafted and approved the current Costa Rican
Main article: National Constituent Assembly (France)
French Revolution (from July 1789 to September 1791) a
National Constituent Assembly (Assemblée nationale constituante) was
formed when representatives assembled at the only location available
– a tennis court – and swore the
Tennis Court Oath
Tennis Court Oath on June 20,
1789, promising that they would not adjourn until they had drafted a
new constitution for France. Louis XVI recognized the validity of the
National Constituent Assembly on June 27, 1789.
See also French Constituent Assembly election, 1848
On 27 November 2010, Iceland held an election for a constitutional
assembly, with 522 people vying for 25 delegate seats. The
constitutional assembly, in session for four months from early April
until late July 2011, drafted a new constitution and passed it
unanimously with 25 votes against zero with no abstentions. Parliament
put the bill to a national referendum 20 October 2012 in which 67% of
the voters declared their support for the bill. Further, 67% of the
voters declared their support for equal voting rights (one person, one
vote) and 83% declared their support for national ownership of natural
resources, two key provisions of the bill.
Parliament has failed to
ratify the bill, however, inviting accusations that the political
class is trying to thwart the will of the people by disrespecting the
result of the 2012 constitutional referendum.
Main article: Constituent Assembly of India
Constituent Assembly of India
Constituent Assembly of India was elected to write the
Constitution of India, and served as its first
Parliament as an
independent nation. It was set up as a result of negotiations between
the leaders of the
Indian independence movement
Indian independence movement and members of the
British Cabinet Mission. The constituent assembly was elected
indirectly by the members of the Provincial legislative assembly,
which existed under the British Raj. It first met on December 9, 1946,
in Delhi. On August 15, 1947,
India became an independent nation, and
the Constituent Assembly started functioning as India's Parliament.
Dr. Ambedkar drafted the Constitution of
India in conjunction with the
requisite deliberations and debates in the Constituent Assembly. The
Assembly approved the Constitution on November 26, 1949 (celebrated as
Constitution Day), and it took effect on January 26, 1950 — a day
now commemorated as
Republic Day in India. Once the Constitution took
effect, the Constituent Assembly became the Provisional
Main article: Constitutional Assembly of Indonesia
Constitutional Assembly of Indonesia
Constitutional Assembly of Indonesia was established to draw up a
permanent constitution. Its membership was elected in November 1955,
and it met for the first time in November 1956. After four sessions,
it failed to agree on the fundamental basis for the state. It was
dissolved in 1959, and the original constitution imposed by
Main article: Constituent Assembly of Italy
Constituent Assembly of Italy
Constituent Assembly of Italy was established in 1946 in the wake
of Fascist Italy's defeat during World War II. It was elected with
universal suffrage, simultaneously with a referendum about the
adoption of Republic or the continuation of monarchy. Voters chose
Republic, and the new assembly had the task to approve the new
republic governments, as well as to write a new constitution. This was
approved on 22 December 1947.
It was dissolved on 31 January 1948, to be replaced by the new
Parliament of Italy.
Main article: 2nd Nepalese Constituent Assembly
Nepal has had two Constituent assemblies, the current one being
elected after its predecessor failed to deliver a constitution,
despite multiple extensions. It also serves as the country's
parliament. Finally Nepal had made constitution with 89% majority.
Nepal is adopting Federal states soon.
Russian Constituent Assembly
Russian Constituent Assembly was established in
Russia in the wake
October Revolution of 1917 to form a new constitution after the
overthrow of the Russian Provisional Government.
Parliament approved to create a Sri Lankan Constitutional
Assembly on March 9, 2016 proposed by
Prime Minister Ranil
Wickramasinghe. The assembly will draft a new Consistition for Sri
Constituent Assembly of Turkey was established in 1961 after the 1960
Turkish coup d'état to prepare a democratic constitution. The
constitution was prepared and approved by the voters in a referendum
The most famous constituent assembly in U.S. history was the U.S.
Constitutional Convention that drafted the still-current United States
Constitution in 1787.The U.S. constitution may be amended by
Congress, although not as part of its normal business; unlike most
constitutions of the world, amendments do not change the text of the
constitution but are appended to it. While there is provision for
calling one, a federal constitutional convention, as mentioned in the
current constitution, has never been called. In part this is due to
Congress being able to amend the constitution without a complex
convention, and the daunting requirements for holding a new
constitutional convention (requiring the consent of two-thirds of the
States), but also because of the fear that wholesale changes in the
Federal Constitution might undermine a document that has stood the
test of nearly 225 years.
The Virginia Constitutional Convention, 1830 (George Catlin, ca.
1830). Many state constituent assemblies, like the 1830 Virginia
Constitutional Convention, were highly formalized but the legitimacy
of the constitution they drafted depended on whether it was authorized
by the people, not whether a particular procedure was followed.
A tradition in the use of constituent assemblies exists at the state
level of Constitutionalism. In fact, constituent assemblies met in the
states before the formation of the Federal Constitution in 1787 as
well as after its ratification. Since 1776 nearly 150 state
constitutional conventions have met to draft or revise state
These early state constitutional conventions frequently did not use
procedural steps like popular ratification that became commonplace in
the mid-19th century. Yet they were considered to be constituent
assemblies that exercised their authority as that of the people. As
American Sovereigns: The People and America's Constitutional Tradition
Before the Civil War by Christian G. Fritz notes:.
"A legitimate constitution depended on whether the sovereign people
authorized it, not whether a particular procedure was used or whether
revolutionary conventions were free of other responsibilities, such as
passing ordinary legislation. It was the people as the sovereign who
authorized drafting those first [state] constitutions that gave them
their legitimacy, not whether they used procedures that matched what
was later understood to be necessary to create fundamental law."
American state constituent assemblies in the 19th and 20th centuries
reflected many qualities of a citizen's movement. From the start
of state American constitution-making, delegates to constitutional
conventions studied earlier state models of constitutions. They often
self-consciously "borrow[ed]" constitutional text and provisions from
other states. They often used in their drafting and debates compact
and pocket-sized compilations of all the existing American
constitutions, so that the constituent's assembly could draw upon the
latest in constitutional design.
Countries without an entrenched constitution
A few countries do not have an entrenched constitution which cannot be
amended by normal legislative procedures; the United Kingdom, New
Zealand and Israel are examples. In these countries there is no need
to call constituent assemblies, and no provision to do so, as the
legislature can effectively modify the constitution. If such a country
decides to implement a constitution, presumably some sort of
constituent assembly will have to be set up for the purpose.
The constitution of New Zealand consists of a collection of statutes
(Acts of Parliament), Treaties, Orders-in-Council, Letters patent,
decisions of the Courts and unwritten constitutional conventions.
Because it is not supreme law, the constitution is comparatively easy
to reform, requiring only a majority of Members of
Parliament to amend
The constitutional law of Israel is determined by the Knesset which,
since 1949, serves as the country's ongoing constituent assembly. The
Knesset has the power to create Basic Laws of Israel, laws which are
entrenched legislation and will become part of a "future" constitution
of Israel, as well as "regular" statutory legislation.
List of constituent assemblies
Constitutional convention (political meeting)
National Constituent Assembly (other)
Third Dáil, also called the Constituent Assembly
^ Id. at 125
^ Axel Hadenius, ed., Democracy's Victory and Crisis, Ch 7: Ways of
Jon Elster (p. 123); Cambridge University
Press, 1997. 431 pp ISBN 9780521573115
^ Paul R. Hanson, The A to Z of the
French Revolution (2013) pp 85-86
^ "Resolution on Constitutional Assembly passed in Parliament".
www.adaderana.lk. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
^ See The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787 (Edited by Max
Farrand; revised edition in Four Volumes, Yale University Press,
^ Kermit L. Hall, Harold M. Hyman, and Leon V. Sigal, eds., The
Constitutional Convention as an Amending Device (The American
Historical Association and The American Political Science Association,
^ Albert L. Sturm, "The Development of American State Constitutions,"
12 Publius (1982), 57-98.
^ Marc W. Kruman, Between Authority and Liberty: State Constitution
Making in Revolutionary America (Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1997),
1-33; Christian G. Fritz, "Alternative Visions of American
Constitutionalism: Popular Sovereignty and the Early American
Constitutional Debate," 24 Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly
(1997), 322-29; Christian G. Fritz, American Sovereigns: The People
and America's Constitutional Tradition Before the Civil War (Cambridge
University Press, 2008) at p. 31-35 ISBN 978-0-521-88188-3
^ Fritz, American Sovereigns: The People and America's Constitutional
Tradition Before the Civil War (Cambridge University Press, 2008) at
p. 33 ISBN 978-0-521-88188-3 For more on the role of the
requirement of complying with specific procedures and processes, see
Christian G. Fritz, "America's Unknown Constitutional World," Archived
2011-05-11 at the Wayback Machine. Bonus Article, Common-Place, Vol.
9, No. 1 (Oct. 2008)
^ Laura J. Scalia, The Remaking of State Constitutions: The Uses of
Liberalism in Designing Electoral Laws, 1820-1850 (Northern Illinois
Univ. Press, 1999); John J. Dinan, The American State Constitutional
Tradition (Univ. Press of Kansas, 2006).
^ Marsha L. Baum and Christian G. Fritz, "American
Constitution-Making: The Neglected State Constitutional Sources," 27
Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly (2000), 199–242.