The Citizen Handbook
Two Types of Constitutions
There are two basic types of constitutions.
The first is a written (codified)
constitution, which is contained in a single document and serves as the
single source of constitutional law. The second type is an unwritten (un-codified) constitution, which is not contained in a
single document but rather consists of several different sources that may be
written or unwritten. Most countries in the world, including Kenya, have
codified constitutions. Both historical and political factors determine how a
country adopts its constitution. Codified constitutions find their legitimacy,
and often longevity, in the way countries adopt them. Furthermore, changes to
most codified constitutions require exceptional procedures. These procedures
may be to:
- convene a special constituent assembly;
- hold a referendum process; or
- create requirements so that it is more difficult for a legislature to amend a constitution than it is to pass a law.
Written (codified) constitutions normally include
a ceremonial preamble, which provides the goals of the State, motivation for
the constitution, and several articles containing the substantive provisions. Omitted
from some codified constitutions, the preamble may also contain a reference to
religion and/or to fundamental values of the nation such as liberty/freedom, democracy,
or human rights.
Unwritten (un-codified) constitutions often
represent an ‘evolution of laws’ and pacts over time. Countries considered that
have un-codified constitutions include Israel, Canada, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand,
and the United Kingdom. Countries with written constitutions may also have
aspects of an unwritten constitution as part of its laws. In other words, a
written constitution is not necessarily acomprehensive document of the values, principles,
and rules that govern a country.