Constitutionalism and Political Stability as the Precondition

Constitutionalism and Political Stability as the Precondition

The concept of great chain of being was conceived by ancient rulers and they ruled the mankind in the name of supreme authority, though this kind of association varied from place to place, it surely conveyed the idea of power in our development; with the flow of time we endorse new ideas emerged due to social and political demand, such as, ideas of right or wrong, power and politics and which becomes manifest in the operation of constitution and constitutionalism. These are not just ideas but the implication of human reasoning with their developed understanding due to the necessity of time with intense notion towards self-empowerment. These ideas are closely related with each other, therefore any change or implication of policy causes a chain reaction on the ongoing system, and consequently the impact is observed by the mass people being root of the subject.

The close observation of constitutionalism and political stability of states and their comparison with each other would help us understand the necessity of constitutionalism and political stability as the pre-condition of a country’s development. Owing to this, the ideas of constitutionalism and political stability should be cleared first.

There is no real consensus found on the definition of constitutionalism, but there are some tuned definitions that seem to be accepted by most of the scholars, such as the definition by E.Fehrenbacher,“Constitutionalism as a complex of ideas, attitudes, and patterns of behavior elaborating the principle that the authority of government derives from and is limited by a body of fundamental law”.[1] Before going to further exploration, the understanding of supplementary relation between constitution and constitutionalism is important. A constitution is the key element in organizing the polity; often a supreme written law. Whereas, constitutionalism ensures the mechanism of rule of law using check and balance among the state institutions, containing the sprit, the substance and the procedure with reference to the constitution, but it does not burden on constitution to be written. In the name of constitutionalism non-democratic rulers as well as monarchies pave their way to secure their power by enabling undemocratic context in the constitution and thus claim legitimacy from the constitution. At this point scholars began to think that a true constitutionalism should have some specific characteristics; they named it as liberal constitutionalism with some key characteristics, such as theory of limited government, separation of power, judicial review and fundamental rights and freedom. Therefore, constitutionalism is a system of political arrangement and hence any political stability or disability puts a great starch on it and vice versa.

A nation with high political stability would be foreseeable one in regards to its political situation. It can be a state with totalitarian dictatorship, ruling generation after generation, i.e. North Korea or can be a country that has been peacefully maintaining the democracy for decades, i.e. The United States, Canada. So, it’s a double edged sword which may lead to desideratum and reflection of peoples hope or it could easily become a tool for cronyism with impunity. Modern idea of political stability is based on the idea of western democracy, which is now being practiced by most of the countries, a similar expression is given by the United States Institute of Peace; as it defined, “Political stability is the ability of a people’s government to share, access, or compete for power through non-violent political processes and to enjoy the collective benefits and services of the state”.[2] Political stability, thus directly connected with political behavior or action, and such actions affects the distribution of power, to uphold the law or to withdraw, each of such actions is ipso facto constitute an authority of self-determination. Although the ideas seem straight forward; it is a devious one, to ensure political stability a state needs to ensure provision of essential services, stewardship of state resource, civic participation, political moderation and accountability and more.

The intimate relation between constitutionalism and political stability support each other for the development of a country, the enterprise of their analysis would further encourage us to find out why and how constitutionalism and political stability predominantly making changes to the society and why they are necessary as a precondition to the overall context. The idea of constitutionalism and safeguard provided by it is closely related to various international law and they are derived from various sources.

The idea of rights of human and constitutional law can be traced back to 4000 years ago in the Babylonian code of Hammurabi[3], and in many other religious codes too. Thereafter, the Magna Cart, The English bill of rights, The US Constitution and the French Declaration of the Right of Man and the Citizen also influenced present constitutions and laws related human rights. Through modern time most of the state ratified various conventions related to human rights, one of the most important is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), though the primary international legal source of economic, social and cultural rights is The International Convent on Economic, Social and Cultural Right (ICESCR), International conventions on Civil and Political Rights also plays a vital role, other various conventions on various matter has also came into force with unanimity like elimination of decimation against women, racial discrimination, rights of persons with disabilities, etc. The Declaration on the Right to Development is another unique one that recall many of these conventions and imposed obligation on states to ensure the development according to the law. The connection is that, a state need to take actions for its development, according to national and international law, thus some constitutional challenges are very common to arise and to cope up with those challenges, the country needs political stability to solve those problems and other than that the country would fail to confirm its prosperity.

To understand the relation among constitutionalism, political stability and the present state of a country, the situation demands the scrutiny of positive science. Let’s bring Syria on the table as the live example and dissect it to find whether it meets the conclusion as per our title proposition. The conflict of last six years totally destroyed the country, around 5 million people became refugee[4] and over 6 million are internally displaced from their home,[5] out of 22 million.[6] Nearly 85.2 per cent of the population had been plunged into poverty by the end of 2015, and over 50 per cent of work force has been unemployed.[7] Approximately four hundred thousand livelihoods have been lost so far, due to the crisis.[8] At this point it would be no exaggeration to say that Syria became a failed state; there are many co-related matters that have direct impact to the situation but we endeavor to link the present situation with our pre conditions only. From the very beginning constitutionalism was absent in the state of Syrian Arab Republic, the Assad Regime promulgate constitution without constitutionalism, mainly to give the president a monopoly over power and to secure the administration of his wish. Ostensibly it is fine but its technicality actually barred the oppositions to be elected as president. In Syria the rule of law is a concept only, where the executive and army are under direct control of the president, people are denied to justice, even international authority has failed to stop use of biological weapon and punishment without trial under the regime authority. In addition, judiciary is controlled by the President himself; he controls the high judicial council as well as the highest Constitutional court, and he also holds the chair of these two benches, thus over through the concept of separation of power and rule of law. When it is about political stability, it is more evident than constitutionalism, the fragmented political entities are continuously fighting with each other, with local and international support. Coups were common in history of Syria for the power hungry leaders within the Arab Socialist Ba’ath party, but the instability did not stop there, massive oppression by the ruling party due to social, political and racial discrimination gave rise to various rebel groups. Meanwhile, international geopolitical players instigated and patronized them with money, machine and troops for their own play to the region. As a result, the ISIL started invading places of Syria very easily, thus multi-party, multi-player civil war turned the country into a total mass. At this point it can be said the state of Syria failed because it failed to meet the precondition of constitutionalism and political stability.

The situation of countries varies from place to place; therefore it is taught to point out the direct impact of constitutionalism and political stability not excluding other catalysts. However, an effort can be taken to bring two similar countries for the sake of analysis. India and Pakistan; two nation twins, born after the Second World War with the mandate to be a great nation. After 69 years of independence both country are in very different possession, where India is the world’s largest democracy with 3rd largest economy[9] and its own space program and military technology. It also ranked 35th in the democracy index,[10] the press is known as “partly free”[11]. On the other part of the line of control it seems in a different state. Pakistan is struggling to keep its states under control, having 25th largest economy[12] with its week democracy. By continuous militant pressure and rise of extremism, it ranked 112 in the in democracy index,[13] and the freedom of press is observed as “not free”.[14] And thus this comparison shows the lacking of Pakistan very easily. Analysis regarding constitutionalism and political stability, it seem that though the misuse of power is a regular allegation but India has managed the separation of power very well, consequently no successful coups has been observed since the liberation. The judiciary; being the guardian of Indian constitution created an example, being free on its matters. Their federal system as well as foreign policy kept the nation integrated, thought oppression against minority and racial discrimination is very common, with the help of open media and intellectuals it is solving many of its challenges, while the problem of Kashmir and seven sisters is yet to overcome. Contrarily, when we look at Pakistan, the lack of constitutionalism is very naked as it was raped by frequent military coups; three of them were successful, others failed, but that shows the disrespect towards the rule of law, and when rule of law is obsolete the freedom of democracy comes to an end. Continuous exploitation of minority, ill distribution of federal sanction, racial discrimination ignited various groups and turned them into rebel. Moreover, Baluchistan and Kashmir wants their freedom in their own hand. At this point political stability is a hope only as no proper action seems to be taken. The military subvert the constitution imposing the state of emergency whenever they wanted, they amended and changed the constitution several times. Even though the Courts are meant to act as protectors of the constitution, they often gave way to Pakistani leaders on the matters of constitutional law, either in the name of necessity or for their own survival. Therefore it can easily be concluded the pre-condition of development is better in India and thus they are enjoying the outcome.

Coming to our third analysis, if we look at the Human development index we would find Norway ranked first calculating 16 prospective among 188 other countries. [15] In separate index of freedom of press[16], democracy[17]it holds the same position as well. In the same way it is also the 5th less corrupt country of the world.[18] Now the reverse engineering of their extraordinary achievement may give us a chance to prove constitutionalism and political stability as precondition of human development. The present prosperity of the nation seems started very early with proper political will, with the birth of the one of the oldest constitution that is still enforced; needless to say it never bard itself to develop the provisions of 1814 constitution with its prudence political will. Now it is one of the most liberal constitutions with proper separation of power and rule of law. The freedom of judiciary ensures the human rights unprecedently by special procedure of European Court for Human Rights even after the judgment of the Supreme Court. This country of constitutional monarch managed its political stability quite well, through the history no military cops or civil war had been observed nor did the state of emergency come to force. The chance of minority government ensured the stewardship of state resource. Civic participation is all over in this social welfare state. Thus the elements of constitutionalism and political stability seem present and can be said that the state has fulfilled its precondition and flourish as successful country accordingly.

Constitutionalism itself a complex idea when brought along with political stability, becomes more complicated, but in the event where we evaluate human rights and human development as well as a nation’s prosperity by them, they became very relevant to each other and draws the clear picture of their contribution and effect. Lack of constitutionalism and political stability can consequently make a state a failed one. It would be more evident if we could observe two similar state side by side, in contrast a country with high development cannot achieve its possession without fulfilling the precondition of constitutionalism and political stability. Thus form the above discussion it can be concluded that constitutionalism and political stability as the pre-condition for the development of a state.

[1] Fehrenbacher, Don E. Constitutions and Constitutionalism in the Slaveholding South. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1989

[2] Guiding Principles for Stabilization and Reconstruction. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 2009. P. 8-89.

[3]  Flach, Jacques. Le Code de Hammourabi et la constitution originaire de la propriete dans l’ancienne Chaldee. (Revue historique. Paris, 1907. 8. v. 94, p. 272-289.

[4] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). “UNHCR Syria Regional Refugee Response.” UNHCR Syria Regional Refugee Response. Accessed November 20, 2016.

[5] Hurrell, Bella, and Jhon Walton. “Life and Death in Syria.” BBC News. March 30, 2016. Accessed November 15, 2016.

[6] News, BBC. “Syria’s Beleaguered Christians.” BBC News. February 25, 2015. Accessed November 15, 2016.

[7] “About Syria.” UNDP in Syria. Accessed November 20, 2016.

[8] “Syria Death Toll: UN Envoy Estimates 400,000 Killed.” AJE News. April 24, 2016. Accessed November 16, 2016.

[9] Report for selected country groups and subjects (PPP valuation of country GDP). IMF, 2016. Accessed November 18, 2016.…

[10] Democracy Index 2015: Democracy in an age of anxiety. The Economist Intelligence Unit, 2015. Accessed November 18, 2016.

[11] @FreedomHouseDC. “India.” Freedom House. Accessed November 20, 2016.

[12] Report for selected country groups and subjects (PPP valuation of country GDP). IMF, 2016. Accessed November 18, 2016.…

[13] Democracy Index 2015: Democracy in an age of anxiety. The Economist Intelligence Unit, 2015. Accessed November 18, 2016.

[14] @FreedomHouseDC. “Pakistan.” Freedom House. Accessed November 20, 2016.

[15] “Human Development Report 2015” UNDP, 2015. Accessed November 20, 2016.

[16] @FreedomHouseDC. “Norway ” Freedom House. Accessed November 20, 2016.

[17] Democracy Index 2015: Democracy in an age of anxiety. The Economist Intelligence Unit, 2015. Accessed November 18, 2016.

[18] “Transparency International – Country Profiles.” Transparency International. Accessed November 19, 2016.


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Rayhanul Islam

Advocate Rayhanul Islam is the founder and Editor in Chief of Law Help BD. He is also a researcher. Critical thinking is his main focus. He is on a quest to bring positive change to the legal sector of Bangladesh. He promotes legal knowledge and human rights concept to the root level. e-mail: [email protected]

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