This entry provides information on a country’s constitution. It includes the dates of previous constitutions, the dates of the main steps in making and implementing the latest constitution, and the dates of amendments. For countries with 1-3 previous constitutions, the years are listed; for those with 4-9 previous, the entry is listed as “several previous,” and for those with 10 or more, the entry is “many previous.” Amendment entries are treated in the same manner, and include the date(s) of the last amendment(s).
The main steps in creating a constitution and amending it usually include 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 “amended,” “revised,” or “reformed.” 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 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. Countries including Hong Kong, Macau, Oman, and Saudi Arabia use the term “basic law” 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 country-level constitutions.