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Conventions of Unamendability: Covert Constitutional Unamendability in (Two) Politically Enforced Constitutions

  • Gert Jan GeertjesEmail author
  • Jerfi Uzman
Chapter
Part of the Ius Gentium: Comparative Perspectives on Law and Justice book series (IUSGENT, volume 68)

Abstract

Legal scholarship on the unamendability of constitutional provisions tends to focus on legal systems with a strong tradition of judicial review of legislation. Legal systems such as the United Kingdom and The Netherlands, where the constitutionality of laws is a matter for the political branches and not for the courts, are routinely ignored. They do not fit existing perceptions of constitutional unamendability and arguably fall well outside the categories of either explicit or implicit constitutional unamendability. Nonetheless, these ‘politically enforced constitutions’ still contain mechanisms of unamendability, be it of an informal nature. These take the shape of judicial or institutional disobedience. The doctrine of unconstitutional constitutional amendments thus becomes relevant to a broader range of constitutional systems. However, this type of unamendability requires a more subtle approach. It does not emerge from constitutional provisions, whether explicit or not, but rather occurs in the form of a constitutional convention of unamendability. The question whether parts of the constitution should be regarded as unamendable thus cannot be solely couched in the all-or-nothing terminology of legal rules. Instead, conventions of unamendability, due to their principle-based character, may be subject to changing circumstances and exceptions. Existing literature on constitutional conventions may be used as a model in order to build a framework of analysis for the concept of constitutional unamendability in politically enforced constitutions.

Notes

Acknowledgements

We are grateful to Richard Albert and Bertil Emrah Oder for the opportunity to present our paper at the Koç University & Boston College Law School ICON-S Workshop on unamendable constitutional provisions. We thank the participants of the workshop and an anonymous peer reviewer for their helpful advice. Naturally, the usual disclaimer applies

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Leiden University Law SchoolLeidenThe Netherlands

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