Different Types of Constitutions and How They Shape Society

What does the Constitution really mean? Are there classifications or types of Constitution, and how many are there? Lastly, of what importance is the Constitution?

All these questions we shall answer in this article. Simply relax and go through it and see the answers.

Definition and brief Introduction to the Constitution

The Constitution is a body of rules and regulations by which a state is governed. In other words, it is a set of principles that guides the conduct of a state or country.

The Constitution establishes and defines the relationship between the three arms of government

The three arms of government are the Legislaturethe Executive and the Judiciary. Only the Constitution states the powers of each of the arms of government. This simply means that all the branches of government are under the Constitution and none is above it. As long as the Constitution exists, it will always harmonize these three organs of government.

The Constitution is the grundnorm upon which all other laws made in a country are built. Any law of the Legislature, an organization, a company or any corporate body inconsistent with the Constitution is void to the extent of its inconsistency.

Furthermore, in the absence of the Constitution, one of the arms of government may act beyond its powers, and conflict between the organs of government is bound to exist.

The Constitution does not only define the relationship between the organs of government. It also defines the relationship between ordinary citizens and that of government and citizens.

Let me also add that the Constitution defines the form of government which a country adopts. In the same way, the form of constitution determines the form of government. For instance, during Independence, Nigeria first used the parliamentary constitution which caused Nigeria to adopt the parliamentary system of government.

Currently, Nigeria operates a presidential government culminating from a presidential type of Constitution.

Let’s now see the different forms of the Constitution which we have.

Classification of the Constitution

We shall examine each of the classifications of the Constitution under this sub-topic.

Important: Classification of the Constitution is the same as the types. Scroll down to see the types one after the other.

Written and Unwritten Constitutional

Written Constitution is a class of constitution that is contained in a single document. In other words, a single book could be upheld and called the Constitution. It is the opposite of the Unwritten Constitution. Examples of countries that use the written Constitution are Nigeria, USA, etc.

The Unwritten Constitution is the opposite of the Written Constitution.

Unwritten constitution is a class of Constitution which is not contained in a single document. This simply means that it could be written somewhere. It consists of various customs, principles or traditions of a country.

Sometimes, we misunderstand the concept of Unwritten Constitution to mean a type of constitution not written anywhere. Well, you could be right. But that’s not the exact meaning of it.

It is called Unwritten Constitution because it is contained in different documents. In other words, it is not in a single book like that of Nigeria and America.

Rigid and flexible Constitutional

A rigid Constitution is in of the types of Constitution which does not have a simple law making process. It is a constitution which takes work to amend. While the flexible Constitution is a class of constitution which is easy to make, amend or repeal. Nigeria and USA makes use of rigid constitution.

The main difference between rigid and flexible Constitution is how easy or hard the amendment processes are.

Presidential and parliamentary Constitution

These two types of constitutions talk about forms of government. The presidential constitution is a type of constitution that creates the presidential system of government. This class of constitution places powers on the hands of the Chief Executive – the President. An example of a country that uses the presidential constitution is Nigeria.

The parliamentary Constitution is a type that creates a parliamentary system of government. Furthermore, the parliamentary constitution dictates that the head of the state can be a prime minister. He/she can also be a part of a political party. Countries that use the parliamentary constitution are Great Britain, the Netherlands, etc.

Federal and Unitary Constitution

This is a type of Constitution possessed by a federal state. A federal constitution shares powers between the federal government, State and local government. It defines the powers and functions of the government at the center and the subordinating units.

On the other hand, the unitary constitution is possessed in a Unitary State. A unitary constitution vests all the powers of the federal government. In other words, it establishes a single level of government and vests all the powers on it. However, the central government can delegate powers to the subordinating units. To perform a particular function.

The above list contains the classification of the Constitution.

Types of Constitution

  • Written Constitution
  • Presidential Constitution
  • Federal Unitary
  • Unwritten Constitution
  • Rigid Constitution
  • Flexible Constitution
  • Parliamentary Constitution

Can a country have more than one type of constitution?

The answer is, yes. A country may use more than one type of constitution directly or indirectly. Let’s now take an instance using Nigeria.

Nigeria uses a Presidential, Written, rigid, and federal Constitution. Though they have only one constitution but it has the qualities of these four kinds of constitution. Why is it so? It’s because Nigeria is a country where the president is the Chief Executive, a characteristic of the presidential constitution.

It has a single document that it can lay hands on and call it a constitution. All its rules and regulations for ruling the country are in one document. This is a quality of a written Constitution.

Moreso, its constitution is very hard to amend as it has several processes to undergo. Before the legislature amends its constitution, it has to go through the two houses. It would also have to get majority votes from the state Houses of Assemblies. That is a quality of a rigid Constitution.

Finally, Nigeria runs a form of government that shares powers between the federal, state, and local levels. That is a quality of a federal Constitution.

From the above argument, it is clear that a country can operate more than one form of constitution. However, it all depends on the structure of the country’s government.

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