By Bobb Rousseau, Diaspora Matters Columnist
Note: This installment is Part 1 of 4 in a series.
The term constitution comes from the Latin word “” which means regulations. It is composed of a set of fundamental principles or established precedents that determines the democratic structure of a free, independent, and sovereign nation (Messe, 2009).
Gerkrath (2009) argues that a constitution governs the relationship between the people and their government as it reflects nations’ socio-political realities. It is a guide to living in the present and a projection on the socio-political future of this nation (Gerkath, 2009). A State recognizes another State according to its constitution for it proclaims the sovereignty of a country and strengthens the principles to achieve the rule of law. It is to a country what the Bible is to Christianity. A free, sovereign, and independent people cannot exist without a constitution.
According to the intention of democratic theorists such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Hobbes, Montesquieu, and John Locke, a constitution must be stable, but adaptable and adjustable to better represent and govern the generation that voted it and to continue to represent even the generations that did not vote for it. It is a living document that may be amended at any time to reflect the current socio-political momentum of a people. It is the purest symbol of democracy and sovereignty without which a democratic country cannot function.
The majority of constitutions are codified, meaning that they are written in a single document while others are non-codified for they are written in several documents (Mendiri, 2016). The constitutions of Canada, the United States of America, New Zealand, Israel, the United Kingdom, and that of Saudi Arabia are uncodified while those of France, Brazil, Cuba, and Haiti are codified. Every free nation has the right to a constitution; better yet, every democratic society is governed by a constitution that advocates homeland security and democracy through borders protection and respect for human rights.
The United States of America has the oldest constitution in the world. It was formally written in 1787 although in 1639 the Colony of Connecticut (one of the original 13 colonies of the United States of America) adopted the Fundamental Orders, which served as a prelude to the emanation and the adoption of their future constitution and amendments (McGlothlin, 2014). To this day, the United States Constitution of 1787 continues to represent and to embody the democratic aspirations and values of the United States government. It applies to all Americans and all immigrants, regardless of gender, political creed, religious beliefs, or economic status.
The constitution of India is the longest in existence today. It contains 22 parts, 444 articles, 12 annexes, 118 amendments, and 146,385 words. The shortest constitution in the world is that of the Principality of Monaco written in 10 chapters with 97 articles for a total of 3,814 words. After the Vatican in Italy, the Principality of Monaco, located on the borders of France, is the smallest independent state in the world.
Haiti has a very long history of constitutions. Haiti is one of the countries that has voted the most constitutions. Without counting the amendment of 2012, from 1801 to 1987, Haiti voted and adopted 23 constitutions.
The Haitian constitution of 1987 stands out as a clean slate with the dictatorial regime of the Duvalier. It was written to establish a government that would be based on the equality of all, regardless of gender difference and while leaving the flexibility for changes over time to come. It excluded a group of politicians while she opened political doors to a new system of government. The greatest result of the constitution of 1987 is that, unlike the first ones, after being written, it was put to the vote of the people, by way of referendum, to allow the participation of the people.
The Haitian constitution is divided into 15 Titles. Each Title is divided into Chapters. Each Chapter is divided into Sections. Sections are divided into Articles. Including those that are repealed, the current constitution is composed of 298 articles. Any violation of the constitution in whole or in part is qualified as crimes of high treason severely punished by the constitution itself and by Haitian laws.
To be continued in the next installment.
Gerkrath, J. (2009). Meaning and functions of a constitution. Found on https://www.forum.lu/pdf/artikel/6579_286_Gerkrath.pdf
McGlothlin, J. (2014). What country has the oldest constitution? Found at http://www.westernjournalism.com/country-oldest-constitution/
Mendiri, A. (2016). Philosophy for all. The Editions Connaissances et Savoirs Pour Tous. Paris, Fr.