A CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY or CONSTITUTIONAL ASSEMBLY is a body or assembly of representatives composed for the purpose of drafting or adopting a constitution. As the fundamental document constituting a state, a constitution cannot normally be modified or amended by the state's normal legislative procedures; instead 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 necessary 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 Examples
* 1.11 United States
* 1.11.1 Federal * 1.11.2 States
* 2 Countries without an entrenched constitution * 3 See also * 4 References
Right after the 1948
Costa Rican Civil War
Main article: National Constituent Assembly
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.
Constituent Assembly of India
Main article: Constitutional Assembly of Indonesia
The 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 presidential decree.
Main article: Constituent Assembly of Italy
The 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
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
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 of 1961.
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. Unlike most constitutions, the U.S. constitution may be amended by Congress , although not as part of its normal business; again unlike other constitutions, amendments do not change the text of the constitution but are appended to it. While there is provision for calling one, no federal constitutional convention has been called. In part this is due to Congress being able to amend the constitution without a 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 constitutions.
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 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" 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
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
List of constituent assemblies
* Convention parliament
Constitutional convention (political meeting)
* ^ Id. at 125
* ^ Axel Hadenius, ed., Democracy\'s Victory and Crisis, Ch 7: Ways
of constitution-making by
Jon Elster (p. 123); Cambridge University
Press, 1997. 431 pp ISBN 9780521573115
* ^ Paul R. Hanson, The A to Z of the
* GND : 4187675-1