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The relationship between democracy and constitutionalism has brought about many controversies. Democracy originated from Greek and it made sense simply as all the people decided as one. This was usually by the majority vote where the majority had it. At this point in time, the United States already had a population of about three million. This means it was too large both numerically and geographically for direct democracy. Direct democracy is not always possible in a large scale society. Some form of representative democracy is usually the best that can ever be done. At the time of adoption of the United States Constitution, the debate supposed that the representatives were to represent their own communities (Griffin 1998).
For a constitution to be successful it should attempt to seek to coordinate the population of the country on a limit set of values which are widely shared. If two majority groups disagree strongly then no issue could be constitutionalized. Arguably the best way to bring order to a society that is pervasively pluralist with values that are divergent on most issues is to protect a set of individual rights liabilities. You also need to coordinate an economy that is open. For instance the constitution of the United States secured commercial society all the issues of tariffs and interstate commerce over to the federal government. This took them out of control on the individual states (Oliver & Jowell 2007).
In the modern time, the concept of constitutionalism involves a system of checks and balances to political issues and is regulated by law. It is also intended to protect the liberty of the citizens and enable them participate freely in the country’s politics. Some constitutions are presented in written form like the 1787 constitution of America while others constitute of an assemblage of precedents and legal statues that are collected over time like in the United Kingdom (Torre 2007). In early modern Europe, there was no such a word like constitutionalism but the words behind it were expressed frequently. In this time, the checks and balances were embodied in specific monarchies.
According to Griffin (1998), a constitution is an assemblage of customs, laws and institutions which are determined from certain unchanging principles of reason, intended for certain fixed objects of public good. It composes of the general systems by which the population agree to be governed. This is always the reference for all the legal actions a citizen engages in. in other words going against the constitution is wrong and can be punishable. However energy country has its own constitution that could be very much different from the other countries’.
Although the modern western democracies are constitutional, democracy and constitutional are conceptually and historically distinct. While constitutionalism refers to limited government to divide and restrain state power, democracy refers to the unlimited exercise of the state power. In real sense majorities should be able to control all the government as stipulated in the pure majoritarian form of democracy. They should be able to control the executive, the legislative and even the judicial if they have a mind and this means they will control every thing inline with politics (Inoguchi, Newman, & Keane 1998).
It is important to understand the distinction between democracy and constitutionalism in order to get the nature of democratic deficit in the European community and more so the legitimacy problems of the less majority institutions like the independent central bank constitutional courts, and international organizations like the World Trade Organization. It is important to point out that if we take the expression democratic deficit literary as an absence or little development of institutions, then the deficit in democracy is truly a feature of the process within which the political and economic integration don’t only have different speeds but also follow different principles of which the first is intergovernmental and the second is supernationalism. This historically and unique approach can only succeed if the political and the economic tracks are kept separate from one another (Oliver & Jowell 2007). This means that the deficit of democracy will remain prevalent at the European level until that point where the majority of the citizens of the European Union member states stop to view the nation states as the only place of democratic politics.
The introduction of constitution in institutions like the EU raises many questions about its validity in a non state context. Although it is claimed that it is meant to strengthen the institutions, this is not actually true. It is rather meant to enhance the legitimacy of politics that is conducted in such a non state polity. Both the constitution and the citizen rights are in the long run more of symbolic rather than procedural value. However they are not presented to the public in this symbolic nature but rather promoted as substantial or practical improvements. Paradoxically, symbolic politics which are borrowed from the experience of the modern nation state could easily trigger off a conflict. According to Inoguchi, Newman, & Keane, (1998), this is because the expectations and the experience of symbolic meaning are not the same for various communities. While constitutionalism would appear to be a deliberate policy towards bringing the people together just like democracy, it is more likely to bring up unintended consequences. In the European Union context for example, the issue of the constitution creates expectations that are potentially divergent and they are prone to start up a back-lash.
For the success of a political organization to be achieved, the constitution should be understood ad accepted by those who will be ruled by it. This means that the core norms of the constitution should be considered valid by the intended followers of the norm. These could be social groups, governments, or individual citizens. Empirically the basic assumptions on how to define legitimacy will determine the degree of validity. Whenever the constitutional norms are attended to outside the cultural and social context from which they originated from, a situation that is potential conflictive will always emerge. According to Torre (2007), the cause of the conflict will emerge from the de-linking of the various sets of social practices that form the evolving customary and political aspect of the constitution. In other words, the actors might all agree on the importance of a given norm in supernational context, this agree meant does not allow for conclusions to be made about its meaning. Just like in the domestic context, the meaning of a certain norm is likely to differ according to the way the norm is used. Both the customary and the organizational aspects contribute to the interpretation of the norm meanings.
Most countries have the desire of arriving at constitutions that are truly democratic but are faced with various challenges especially because of human right issues like gay marriages. It is not easy for countries with diverse ethnic communities to agree on such a contentious issues. However some are forced to live with whatever their representatives like the senators agree upon. On the other hand the more powerful individuals are also known for bulldozing issues that they feel are more important to them through the parliament. It is therefore not always a matter of democracy built the more powerful will always have their way (Zurn 2007). The experience of countries that have achieved a truly democratic society indicate that the government should adopt convincing processes of constitution making. This process should be able to engage the largest population constructively. If this is done then the end product will be seen as legitimate and owned by the whole population and not the leaders. The citizens will then be obligated to follow the constitution to the late because it was constituted by them. It will also ensure the constitution making process is participatory, transparent and credible.
Most of the constitutions fail almost immediately because they did not coordinate two or more major groups existing in their society. This is quite often when one group had the higher hand in designing the constitution and the constitution is imposed on to other groups. According to Griffin (1998), there can not however be a constitution that works for a society that is divided over major issues just like in Rwanda. If we consider two constitutions that have failed in their own design like the US article on confederation and the EU constitution, both of them were so focused on present issues that were to be taken seriously as constitutions for long term entities of the government.
Every citizen of a country faces serious problems that they hope the government will help them fulfill many things and also protect them from one another. However giving the government all the power in the world to do this implies giving them power to also do many other things that could be harmful. This is why we see so much police brutality but whenever we question then it’s less likely that we can win over the government’s point of view. The government seen to control everything. Issues of land ownership have also caused a lot of problem within the country. According to Oliver & Jowell (2007), we have been left to depend on the constitutional cleverness to come up with institutions that will be able to protect us and match policies that carry the views of most of the people. In the United States history this cleverness has to be Madison. But since them Americans have now lived past the institutions which he helped design to an extend the present government would not be recognizable to him.
In order to secure the rights of the citizens, architects of the constitution emphasized that there need to be a check on the power instilled in each branch of the government. There should also be equality under the law, separation of church and state. In the 21 century the problem of the constitution mostly arise from the government. The phenomena in the modern day of illiberal democracies have gained legitimacy from the fact that these regimes seem so democratic. Illiberal democracy is however very dangerous and inadequate because it bring in the erosion of liberty, ethnic division, abuse of power and even war (Inoguchi, Newman, & Keane 1998). The present scenario is that the spread of democracy is in the world has not always been together with a corresponding spread of liberty. Most of the democratically elected leaders around the world have used their power to oppress the citizens by dictating what is done leave alone acquiring so much wealth in their time in office. Moreover some have even changed the constitution to give them more time in form whenever they see their reign is coming to an end. A good example is the Zimbabwean president, Mr. Robert Mutable who has completely refused to let the president sit go (Zurn 2007).
The earliest and greatest victory of liberalism has to be that achieved in England. The commercial class that supported the Tudor monarchy during the 16th century were the leaders of the revolutionary battle during the 17th century. They went ahead and established the supremacy of the parliament and then the House of Commons. The most distinctive feature of this modern constitutionalism was not because the king was supposed to work under the law but the establishment of better and effective means of controlling politics where the rule of law would be enforced in instances that the law was broken. This meant that the representative government was to act in accordance to the consent of its citizens. A part from this modern constitutionalism is intimately linked to the power of the purse and economics. This means that the those people whose taxes fund the government who of course are the citizens must have a representative in the government (Torre 2007).
The preamble of the United States constitution says that the people do ordain and establish that constitution. These words give the expression that the government should be ruled by the people and not a single government official or the prominent people in the government. It is the people who own the government but have delegated the governing powers to the elected few to represent their views in the government. This delegation of power should not however diminish the powers of the citizens. The legitimacy of the government should still remain in the hands of the governed who still have the right to peacefully alter their government or make amendments in their constitution (Inoguchi Newman & Keane 1998).
The most crucial matter has always been to differentiate between democracy and constitutionalism. This problem has been difficult to answer because for along time liberal democracy has coincided with democracy. From the time of Aristotle democracy meant their rule by the people. The essence of democracy should be a free and fair election. Despite this the present governments have been characterized by corruption. Democracy has there fore prevailed in the government of most countries especially Africa. If we are to benefit from the importance of constitutionalism then we should put up institutions that will ensure that the constitution is followed to the later. Any braking of the constitution should result to dismissal from government offices and prosecution.
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