Constitutionalism is based on the belief that the powers of the various organs of government should be defined and regulated by the constitution, so that those who govern the society do so without denying or violating human dignity. This shows that limitations are placed in the performance of their functions and must be in accordance with the provisions of the constitution. Also, constitutionalism checks and sets limits, not only to the actions of government, but also to the actions of the people making up the political system.
Purposes of Constitutionalism
- Fundamental human rights: The principle of constitutionalism enhances the protection of the people’s fundamental human rights, for example rights to life, and freedom of speech.
- Right to vote and contest elections: Every adult according to this principle has the right to vote and be voted for at any political elections,
- Enforcement of the people’s rights: This principle states that, only the constitutional courts, e.g. High Courts and Appeal Courts, can enforce the people’s rights.
- Limitation in the exercise of functions: The activities of those who govern should not be absolute, limitation is placed on the exercise of their functions by the constitution.
- Equality before the law: It stresses the fact that nobody no matter how highly placed should be above the law of the land.
Relationship Between Constitution and Constitutionalism
Constitution is a body of agreed rules and principles defining how the powers of governing a country are given. The principle of constitutionalism states that the powers of the various organs should be defined and limitation placed in the performance of their functions. Also, these organs should abide by the provisions of the constitution. Constitutionalism checks and sets limits to the actions of the citizens and stresses the need for the protection of their rights, equality of all before the law, enforcement of these rights, etc.
All that constitutionalism is stressing are entrenched in the constitution.