Definition: This entry provides information on a countryâ€™s constitution and includes two subfields, history and amendments. The history subfield includes the dates of previous constitutions and the main steps and dates in formulating and implementing the latest constitution. For countries with 1-3 previous constitutions, the years are listed; for those with 4-9 previous, the entry is listed as â€œseveral previous,â€ and for those with 10 or more, the entry is â€œmany previous.â€ The amendments subfield summarizes the process of amending a countryâ€™s constitution â€“ from proposal through passage â€“ and the dates of amendments, which are treated in the same manner as the constitution dates.
The main steps in creating a constitution and amending it usually include the following steps: proposal, drafting, legislative and/or executive branch review and approval, public referendum, and entry into law. In many countries this process is lengthy. Terms commonly used to describe constitutional changes are â€œamended,â€ â€œrevised,â€ or â€œreformed.â€ In countries such as South Korea and Turkmenistan, sources differ as to whether changes are stated as new constitutions or are amendments/revisions to existing ones.
A few countries including Canada, Israel, and the UK have no single constitution document, but have various written and unwritten acts, statutes, common laws, and practices that, when taken together, describe a body of fundamental principles or established precedents as to how their countries are governed. Some special regions (Hong Kong, Macau) and countries (Oman, Saudi Arabia) use the term â€œbasic lawâ€ instead of constitution.
A number of self-governing dependencies and territories such as the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, and Gibraltar (UK), Greenland and Faroe Islands (Denmark), Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten (Netherlands), and Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands (US) have their own constitutions.
Source: CIA World Factbook - This page was last updated on December 7, 2019