We urge every citizen to exercise their right to vote. The chance to change our government is NOW. #halalan2013
A constitution is a system, often codified in a written document, which establishes the rules and principles by which an organization is governed. In the case of countries this term refers specifically to a national constitution, which defines the fundamental political principles and establishes the power and duties of each government. Most national constitutions also guarantee certain rights to the people. Historically, before the evolution of modern codified national constitutions, the term constitution could be applied to any important law.
Generally, all constitutions confer specific powers to an organization on the condition that it abides by this constitution or charter limitation. In modern constitutions, there is usually a sense of the constitution’s legitimacy being derived from wide consensus, whether the constitution in question is a constitution of government or just the constitution of a private club. The Latin term ultra vires describes activities that fall outside an organisation’s or legislative body’s legal or constitutional authority. For example, a students’ union may be prohibited as an organization from engaging in activities not concerning students; if the union becomes involved in non-student activities these activities are considered ultra vires of the union’s charter. An example from the constitutional law of nation-states would be a provincial government in a federal state trying to legislate in an area exclusively enumerated to the federal government in the constitution. For example, in the United States, any attempt by a state legislature to ratify a treaty with a foreign nation would be considered ultra vires of Congress’ constitutional authority, being contrary to the constitution. In both cases, “ultra vires” gives a legal justification for the forced cessation of such action, which would be enforced by the judiciary in government.
Most commonly, the term constitution refers to a set of rules and principles that define the nature and extent of government. Most constitutions seek to regulate the relationship between institutions of the state, in a basic sense the relationship between the executive, legislature and the judiciary, but also the relationship of institutions within those branches. For example, executive branches can be divided into a head of government, government departments/ministries, executive agencies and a civil service/bureaucracy. Most constitutions also attempt to define the relationship between individuals and the state, and to establish the broad rights of individual citizens. It is thus the most basic law of an area from which all the other laws and rules are hierarchically derived; in some areas it is in fact called “Basic Law”.
The following are features of democratic constitutions which have been identified by political scientists to exist, in one form or another, in virtually all national constitutions:
- Distribution of Sovereignty
- Separation of Powers
- Lines of Accountability