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Explain the differences between a written and an unwritten constitution. In your opinion,which is better? A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. According to Thomas Paine’s definition towards the term ‘’constitution’’,he describes constitution as an antecedent to government,which is the creature of a constitution,and the constitution is not the act of it’s government,but the people themselves constituting the government.
A constitution may be written or unwritten. As for the definition of written constitution,it is a formal document defining the nature of the constitutional settlement,the rules that govern the political system and the rights of citizens and government in a codified form whereas uncodified constitution is a type of constitution where the fundamental rules of government take the form of customs, usage, precedent and a variety of statutes and legal instruments.
The examples of written constitution are Malaysia Federal Constitution and American Constitution while examples of unwritten constitution include United Kingdom Constitution,New Zealand Constitution and Israel Constitution. There are differences distinguished between a written and an unwritten constitution. Firstly,written constitution and unwritten constitution differ in the aspect of the source and originality. Written constitution or codified constitution is essentially one which is set down formally in a document.
The most obvious and common example of this is the American Constitution, brought into effect in year 1787,which is written down on a piece of parchment and lays down the foundation of American citizens’ rights as well as the powers of government. In other means, written constitution can be found in a single written source. This also can be applied to the Malaysian Federal Constitution in which you can find them in a single statute named the Federal Constitution or ‘’Perlembagaan Malaysia’’ drafted by the Reid Commisioner before Malaysia or Malaya Federation achieved independence.
In the contrary,unwritten constitution or uncodified constitution comes from a variety of sources. For example,the United Kingdom Constitution,which is an unwritten constitution, can be found in these sources including royal prerogative,conventions,common law,statute law,works of authority and the Europeon Constitution. Secondly,written constitution and unwritten constitution also differ in the aspect of flexibility. This aspect of classification was introduced by Lord Bryce in the nineteenth century.
A written constitution is a more rigid constitution and set in stone compared to unwritten constitution. A rigid written constitution allows the availability of special procedures in place in enacting,repealing or amending any given law. For example,in Malaysia’s Parliament,two third majority vote is needed among the Parliament members to allow them to amend the Federal Constitution which is the supreme law of the country as stated in Article (4) of Malaysia Federal Constitution. Therefore,rigid written constitution maintains the distinction between constitutional law and oridinary laws.
Although a rigid written constitution makes the enacted law not bearing any ambigious elements,it takes much longer time to amend a bill or a law. In the contrast,unwritten constitution or uncodified constitution is more flexible compared to written constitution. Flexible unwritten constitution allows the legislature system to makes changes quickly and appropriately in line with the scale of the problem. All laws of the constitution can be amended by a simple or ordinary law making process.