Why do Constitutions Matter?
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Why do Constitutions Matter?

August 24, 2019


They say that a Constitution can change things. But how? After all, a Constitution cannot build a road,
school a child provide drinking water or heal the sick Yet, constitutions have a profound effect
on how well a country functions and as a result, on the quality of life of
its citizens The state needs a powerful engine to do the
things that we need it to do But that power has to be under control A good Constitution keeps the power of the
state under public control it puts the people in the driver’s seat ensuring that the government represents and
is responsible to ordinary citizens To understand the difference that a good constitution
can make let’s look at the fictional country of Ruritania,
as it was ten years ago Ruritania has many problems Unemployment is high Opportunities are few Young people are angry Old people live in despair And it is a mess There is garbage on the streets Often there is no electricity The roads are full of potholes The schools are overcrowded and the sick cannot
get the care they need People are not treated with respect and for minorities it’s even worse if they don’t speak the language or practice
the religion of the majority The courts and the administration are corrupt If you don’t have a ‘connection’, or
the money for a bribe you will always be at the back of the line Why is this so? Well it’s not because Ruritania is poor It has lots of resources Those who are in charge, who are well connected and close to power, have plenty of money They feast while the poor go hungry They run Ruritania for their own personal
benefit not for the benefit of the people And, at the head of the table, sits the President:
The old man He’s been in charge as long as anyone can
remember He’s got the country exactly where he wants it: in his pocket and under his heel Elections are a farce Anyone who dares to speak out ends up in jail The whole system is broken So, where did it all go wrong? Part of the fault lies with the almost limitless
power in the hands of the President and his cronies His presence overshadows the country There is no limit on the number of times he can be re-elected and there are few restraints on what he can do Under his reign, parliament has no real power and the courts have limited independence There’s nothing stopping the president from
appointing his brother as head of the army or his cousins and nephews as ambassadors
and judges or handing out state contracts to his friends The Constitution is too weak to protect the
people It provides no real constraints on the President’s
abuse of power Instead of empowering the people the constitution suppresses them The state has become their master, instead
of being their servant But fortunately that is not how the story
ended Five years ago the people of Ruritania rose
up when they heard that the president was planning
to install his son in his place They knew that their hopes for dignity, justice,
equality and rights would not be realized by simply replacing
one dictator with another They needed to change the rules So they wrote a new Constitution the foundation upon which a democratic Ruritania
would be built Despite their differences, many groups from
across society came together to identify five common goals for constitutional
change The most important thing was to reduce the
president’s excessive power So they limited his powers in relation to
Parliament and the courts and his ability to make appointments They introduced term limits so that in the future, a president can only
serve two terms before someone else must replace him Another urgent need was to empower people
to participate in the political process So the Constitution allowed the free formation
of political parties to give them real choices in future elections It also created an independent electoral commission to ensure that future elections would be free
and fair Thirdly, they sought to ensure the independence
of the judiciary and the due process of law in order to strengthen
human rights This would enable the people to express their
views without fear and bring to an end the injustices of the
past The fourth need was to give all citizens a
seat at the table: Religious and ethnic minorities, women, and
others who were previously excluded were able to insist on new constitutional
rules that would protect their rights and ensure their representation in Parliament Lastly, they agreed that rural areas and the
provinces had been ignored So the new constitution decentralized power giving local communities more say in their
own affairs Ruritania still isn’t perfect But now the population no longer lives in silence and fear Increased opportunities for democratic participation enable people to decide what matters to them
and their communities Open competition for political office means that that the government must respond
to public demands for education, healthcare and decent roads If those in power don’t listen, or if they
don’t deliver they can be voted out Thanks to the new Constitution The people now have the tools they need to
build themselves a brighter future

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  1. Dear Idea, i was enlightened by these simplified explanation through visuals but can you produced different languages of this animation info? Specially my Filipino people will going to vote next year. Im afraid to have a future dictator in the future due to many believe again to elect someone who has like super power. Thank you.

  2. It's against dictators and overthrowing them at some point. Parliament has power and they organize they have some tea and then they protect each other from corruption. They are like one. Parliament or Congress becomes a one party place only in Rights and Peace. No country has achieved this than the UK Germany and France, trust me its been costly and bloody.

  3. If you want to be unbiased you should talk about the difference between an aristocracy and an oligarchy, a monarchy and a tyranny. Democracy isnt a magic solution to bad government, it requires a society that is as politically savvy as the political elites are, a very tall order.

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