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It seems to me that all democratic countries, e.g. republics and representative monarchies, also have a constitution of sorts.

On the other hand, what defines a democratic country is the "power to the people" ergo the ability to decide, directly or indirectly, what laws are passed.

So, it's not so obvious to me that a constitution, in other words a primary set of rules, is necessary. Countries could do with tradition or simply with a set of laws, none of which are more fundamental than others.

Is this correct? If yes, are there examples of democratic countries with no constitution or equivalent?

  • Beautiful - "Asked: 1 Year Ago. Viewed: 1787 Times" Cue the Team America Anthem!! – corsiKa Jul 7 '14 at 20:15
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No, there are some that have none, but they are pretty rare.

But all have some sort of replacement, sometimes unwritten, sometimes written but uncodified.

I'm not aware of a single country outside the 5 below that don't have a codified written constitution and are considered democratic:

  1. Of course, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as Yannis's answer noted, has no written constitution.

    • It instead has a set of basic documents, passed by Parlament (English Bill of Rights, Magna Carta, the Petition of Right, Habeas Corpus Act 1679 and Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949); which, in collection, function in constitutional capacity.

    • Since the Glorious Revolution, the bedrock of the British constitution has traditionally been the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty, according to which the statutes passed by Parliament are the UK's supreme and final source of law. (Wiki)

    • Parliament can change the constitution simply by passing new Acts of Parliament.

    • There is some debate about whether this principle remains valid, particularly in light of the UK's membership in the European Union (src)

  2. Israel is generally considered democratic, but has no constitution. However, they have "Basic Laws" that kinda, sorta functions in a similar capacity, maybe.

    • Interestingly, one of the strong arguments against having a constitution, by David Ben-Gurion, was specifically the fact that UK has none :)

    • There are fairly strong political movements in modern Israel which push for a constitution.

      E.g. Yisrael Beiteinu (until October 2012 the third largest party in Knesset, and which has just merged with Likud into what is generally considered the strongest party in Israel, Likud Yisrael Beiteinu) - has had as its electoral planks, and introduced into 15th Knesset - the creation of Constitution (as well as a change to Presidential form of government).

  3. Canada explicitly follows UK model

    • The preamble to the Constitution of Canada declares that the constitution is to be "similar in principle to that of the United Kingdom".
  4. New Zealand has no codified constitution

    • By some strange coincidence, it's part of UK-led Commonwealth realm. Perfidious Albion strikes again!
  5. San Marino has a codified set of several constitutional documents (differing from UK where they are uncodified).

    • The Constitution of San Marino is distributed over a number of legislative instruments of which the most significant are the Statutes of 1600 and the Declaration of Citizen Rights of 1974 as amended in 2002.

    • This is the only one of five known democratic countries without written codified constitution that is not explicitly modeling its lack of one on UK.


Interesting fact: While Haiti is currently a constitutional democracy, it has had 24-25 Constitutions in the last 200 years, 5 of them in the last 50 years. Sounds like whoever designed Haiti's political system was hired by Google to be in charge of Chrome web browser versioning.


As a side note, in Saudi Arabia the Quran is cited by Basic Law as the supreme source of law. But that doesn't quite apply as it is not a country that anyone would describe as "democratic".

  • "Israel is generally considered democratic", by whom? How can an ethnocracy be considered democratic? – Centril Jul 2 '15 at 16:28
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    @Centril democracy means that the parliament is elected, which is true in Israel. Furthermore, Israel has universal suffrage as it allows all its citizens to vote, including non-Jews. Israeli politics might be "ethnocratic" but not its constitutional form. – Sklivvz Oct 8 '15 at 9:30
  • @Skliwz: Democracy does not mean that "the parliament" is elected. Here is what Aristotle said about democracy: "In a democracy the poor will have more power than the rich, because there are more of them, and the will of the majority is supreme." You can't have a territory where 40%+ can't vote and call it universal suffrage. electronicintifada.net/content/… Either Israel gives up illegal occupation of Gaza & the West Bank and has universal suffrage in "Greater Israel" or it ain't a democracy. – Centril Oct 8 '15 at 9:43
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    @Centril the UN is incorrect, and Gaza and the West Bank have their own government. They vote in PA elections, or would if Abbas hadn't unilaterally postponed them. Saying Israel isn't democratic because Palestinians don't vote in Israeli elections is like saying the US is democratic because Iraqis don't vote in American elections. Even if Israel were occupying Gaza, your argument would be wrong. – Avi Oct 10 '15 at 1:49
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    @Centril the UNGA does not define law international law, nor does the UNSC, though I think it can issue binding declarations, but no security council resolution indicates that Gaza is still occupied. Nor, by the way, is there any Israeli presence in any part of Gaza; it is entirely under Palestinian control. But even if I gave you that Gaza was occupied, that still wouldn't indicate that Israel was undemocratic. It's totally irrelevant to that. – Avi Oct 10 '15 at 5:07
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Most democratic countries have a written constitution, but it's not a requirement. The prime example of a country that lacks a constitution would be the United Kingdom.

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Pakistan has a constitution but it was derived from democracy. Without constitution democracy is a mob rule. The constitution of Pakistan has led to widespread discontent among minorities, rich, landlords, Govt. employees etc. as it was derived from mob rule.

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