It can be said that the most important difference between constitutions is their strength over the rule of law and the rigidity of the fundamental laws and principles enshrined in them. Some constitutions are amended by supermajorities of Parliament, while some require refendums and others put complete legislative power in the parliament. The one feature the three constitutions I will discuss have in common is their liberal democratic nature, but the rigidity of their fundamental laws and how they are amended are all very different.
I will explain and analyse the constitutions of Germany, Ireland and the United Kingdom, three constitutions that have varying degrees of rigidity and I will offer theories on why these constitutions are framed the way they are.
The German Constitution
The German Constitution knows as The Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany is a higher law constitutional model that was formally approved on May 8th 1949 and came into effect on May 23rd. ”Chiefly influenced by the grim lessons on the immediate past” (Jeffrey 1999, p34), the occupying Allies, keen to ensure Germany would never be in the position to start another great war, set about changing the internal structure of German. Initially only including the states of West Germany within the Federal Republic However, within a few years it had come to include all of West Germany and “the proclamation of the Basic Law marked the beginning of an unprecedented era of constitutionalism in Germany” (John and Koch 2009). During the Constitutional conference of 1948 major failings in the Constitution of the Weimar Republic were identified, which eventually “allowed the democratic system to be dismantled from within by extremist forces” (John and Koch 2009) and coupled with no proper legal oversight, this enabled Hitler to concentrate absolute power in himself.
With these failings in mind, the members of the Constitutional Convention attempted to create a better, more resilient constitutional system with the result being an outstanding achievement in the history of constitutional assemblies (John and Koch 2009). Such flaws in the Constitution on the Weimar Republic and the events that followed which were ultimately facilitated by these flaws were very much in the consciousness of those charged with drafting the Basic Law. For example, the position of President was significantly weakened along with a strengthening of the powers of the Chancellor with this being “devised to countervail any development into a presidential dictatorship capable of side lining the federal Parliament as had occurred in the final years of the Weimar Republic” (John and Koch 2009). The Basic Law was framed in such a way that it came to be one of the most rigid constitutions in the world to protect against any potential undermining. Features that cannot be changed are the respect for human rights, the rule of law and the federal, democratic and social nature of the German state.