Frequently Asked Questions

Coding Protocol

  • What is the protocol for open-ended questions? answer
  • What is the character limit for open-ended response questions and comments? answer
  • What is the protocol for article numbers? answer
  • What if I need to type text to identify an article number? answer
  • When no and not specified are both answer options, when should I answer no and when should I answer not specified? answer
  • When should I answer left explicitly to non-constitutional law? answer
  • Should I answer left explicitly to non-constitutional law when there are existing laws the constitution leaves in place? answer
  • What should I do if there are some provisions left to ordinary legislation and others left to organic law? answer
  • When there is only one body or person mentioned in a propose/approve situation, should I answer the questions about who proposes or the questions about who approves? answer
  • How should I answer questions about who is involved in a process when two bodies or people must work jointly? answer
  • How should I handle situations where one person appoints and another consults the appointer? answer
  • How should I handle situations when three or more bodies are involved in a process? For instance, what if the assembly proposes, the assembly approves the proposal, and the court judges for impeachment? answer
  • Sometimes there are negative requirements in the constitution, do we include these as well as positive requirements in the requirements questions? answer

General Characteristics

  • What if there is no date given for the event? answer
  • How do identify the number of sections and answer the associated questions? answer
  • How can I tell if there are multiple documents? answer
  • If a philosopher’s (or political figure’s or theorist’s) ideas are mentioned, like Leninist thought or Maoist beliefs, should I still answer yes to the question about whether or not any of these individuals are mentioned? answer
  • For the form of government question, do I need to record all of the characteristics of the state or just that it is a constitutional monarcy, republic, etc.? answer


  • When both the Queen and Governor-General are mentioned, who should I answer the Head of States questions in the executive section about? answer
  • If the constitution states that one body appoints all ministers, does this imply the same person also appoints the Prime Minister? answer
  • If the Prime Minister must gain the confidence of the legislature, does this mean the legislature approves the appointment of the Prime Minister? answer
  • When asking about the Head of Government’s role in the legislature, is “must be a member of the legislature” the same as “must be a member of the majority party”? answer
  • Is loss of support/no confidence in the Head of Government the same as general dissatisfaction for a reason for dismissal? answer
  • How should I code the executive if only executive committee(s) are listed? answer
  • What should I do if there is a circular selection strategy for the executives (i.e. the Head of State is selected by the Legislature and the Head of State selects a member of the Legislature to be Head of Government)? answer


  • If there are two houses, which house should I code as chamber one and which house should I code as chamber two? answer
  • What is the difference between the right to interpellate members of the executive branch and the right to investigate activities of the executive branch? answer
  • What is the difference between budget, finance, money, spending, and tax bills? answer


  • How should I code a religious court that has the power to overturn legislation? answer
  • What are illegal and ultra-vires actions and in what instances should I answer yes to the question about them? answer
  • How should I code the judiciary if the top court is divided? answer

Coding ProtocolOpen-ended ResponsesWhen answering open ended response questions, please do not use capitals, punctuation, or the articles “a”, “an”, and “the” unless the instructions tell you to. If there is more than one idea, please separate those ideas with semi-colons. If you are copying and pasting from the text of the constitution, please edit the text to conform to these rules.
Coding ProtocolCharacter limitsThere is no chararcter limit open-ended responses or comments. However, clear, concise answers that are less than 244 characters are most useful.
Coding ProtocolArticle NumberThe general rule for article numbers is that you should include the minimum amount of information needed for someone else to identify the paragraph you used to code that particular question. This means you do not need to reference the chapter number if the article numbers are continuous throughout, but you do have to type all the sub-article and paragraph numbers to help others identify the article. You should use the form “section number”.”sub-section number”.”sub-sub-section number” etc. For instance, to reference article 31 paragraph a, you would type 31.a.
Coding ProtocolText and Article Numbers

In most constitutions, you should only need to use numbers to correctly identify the article number, but there are some instances where letters will be necessary, like a schedule, an appendix or to identify a document, like the parliamentary act in Finland or Basic Law X from Israel. If letters are necessary, then you should use the following letters (schedule = s, amendment = am, appendix = ap, parliamentary act = pa, or basic law = bl, declaration = d) with the number behind it (e.g., s1=schedule one, bl4=basic law #4).

Please let us know if you have a document that is not listed here.

Coding ProtocolNo versus Not SpecifiedThere are some questions where both no and not specified are an option. In these cases, no means that the constitution explicitly denies what the question is asking about, and not specified means the topic of the question is not present in the constitution. For example, if the question asks “does the constitution mention the right to asylum?”, you would answer no if the constitution stated there is no right to asylum, and you would answer not specified if asylum was not mentioned at all in the constitution.
Coding ProtocolLeft explicitly to non-constitutional lawYou should answer “left explicitly to non-constitutional law” whenever the provision in the constitution says a law will be or may be made about a body. For instance, the constitution may say Congress will decide on the qualifications and selection procedures for Supreme Court Justices. In this instance, you would put left explicitly to non-constitutional law for the question is the selection procedure for justices to the highest ordinary court specified, and the rest of the questions will not open up. Another example is election. The constitution might say the first chamber of the legislature is selected through proportional representation with the details left to some electoral law to be determined by the legislature. In this case, you would answer that there is one selection method with the formula being proportional with formula not specified and answer all the follow-up questions as left explicitly to non-constitutional law. You can even type this phrase in open-ended responses, provided they are not dates or numbered responses.
Coding ProtocolExisting LawsThere are some constitutions which leave existing laws in place; for instance, many former British colonies leave their old Citizenship Acts in place to handle citizenship questions. If you run across a constitution that leaves former laws in place, you can answer the relevant questions “left explicitly to non-constitutional law”, but please make a note in the comments that you are referring to an existing law.
Coding ProtocolOrdinary law versus Organic LawSome constitutions leave provisions for both ordinary law and organic law. If you run across one of these events, please code the relevant questions “left to explicitly to non-constitutional law”, but also make a note in the comments whether the constitution is referring to ordiniary or organic law.
Coding ProtocolTwo-Stage Decision RulesWhenever there is the possibility of a two-stage decision rule (i.e. appoint/approve, nominate/approve, propose/approve, etc.), the constitution may or may not contain information about who is involved in both stages of the process. If there are two bodies involved in the process, please answer both sets of questions. If there is only one body involved in the process, please only answer the first set of questions (i.e. the appoint, nominate, propose, etc. questions). For example suppose the constitution states that “Judges are appointed by the President.” When asked “Who is involved in nominations of judges?” the correct answer is President. When asked “Who approves nominations of judges?” the correct answer is not specified.
Coding ProtocolJoint Decision RulesSome questions ask whether a certain body is involved in a process. There is most likely either one independent body or two bodies working independently involved in these processes. However, there is the possibility that some constitutions may require both chambers of the legislature work together. In cases where the two chambers of the legislature work independently, we would like you to check both the “First Chamber of the Legislature” and “Second Chamber of the Legislature”, but in cases they must work together, please check “Both Chambers of the Legislature are Required”. For instance, it is easy to imagine a situation where either chamber of the legislature can propose legislation, but both chambers must pass legislation. Here you would check the “First Chamber of the Legislature” and “Second Chamber of the Legislature” for the question about who can propose legislation, and you would check “Both Chambers of the Legislature are required” for the question about who approves legislation.
Coding ProtocolConsulting BodiesThere are some cases where one person appoints and another consults. For instance, in Pakistan, the President appoints justices to the Supreme Court with the consultation of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. In these cases, please code the consulter as the nominating body and the appointer as the approving body.
Coding ProtocolMulti-Stage Decision RulesOur goal with the multi-stage process questions is to get as much information about these complicated processes as possible. Therefore, for multi-stage process with three or more stages, the way you answer will depend both on the text of the constitution and how you can pack as much information as possible into the survey questions. For the specified example here, you should answer the assembly proposes, and the assembly as well as the court approve. If you just answered the assembly proposes and court approves, we would really be missing a key piece of the process.
Coding ProtocolRequirementsEven though most of the checkboxes for requirements questions are about positive requirements, we are interested in both positive and negative requirements, so if a checkbox is not give, please check “other” and put the response in the comments.
General CharacteristicsDateIf there is no date in the text or the associated documentation, then the event is unidentifiable and should not be used for coding. However, the date is usually given, so make sure you look carefully before ruling out an event as unidentifiable. For instance, all Oceana documents contain identifying information under the “document details” link, and for amended constitutions, the date of the latest amendment is often included in footnotes throughout the document.
General CharacteristicsNumber of Sections

By section levels, we are referring to something that is either in almost every supersection or in a majority of the supersections of the constitution. Thus, when answering questions about first- and second-level divisions, focus on divisions found throughout, whether or not they are continuously numbered. When counting the divisions, please include the transitional provisions but ignore the preamble.

For example, South Korea has a preamble, ten numbered chapters, an unnumbered conclusion, and a separately numbered section on transitional provisions. The first level division is clearly “Chapters”, and the number of chapters is 12 (the ten numbered chapters, conclusion, and transitional provisions). Additionally, one of the chapters has two parts, there are continuously numbered articles throughout, and some of the articles have numbered paragraphs. The parts and occasionally numbered paragraphs can be ignored, since they are not continuous throughout, so the second level division is “Article” and there is no third level division.

Occasionally, there will be a section that is not continuously numbered throughout. If this is the case, please make sure to count the number of divisions for that section. Not only is this information substantively interesting, it helps ensure the correct document was coded.

General CharacteristicsNumber of Documents

If there is a possibility that a constitution has more than one document, then it is generally very difficult to tell how many documents are included in the constitution. Let us clarify a few points. First, if a document is incorporated, it is NOT a separate document in the constitution. For instance, France 1958 incorporates the 1789 Declaration of Human Rights and the 1946 Preamble, but we do not include either of these as separate documents in their constitution, even though both were originally drafted by the French. Second, most constitutions only contain one document, so if you are really unsure, you are probably safe putting one document and some comments, which we will sort out when reconciling. Third, the multiple document rule is that it has to be in force and be passed on a separate date from the constitution.

This is a difficult question, because these various parts of the constitution pass are not usually given. For instance, a schedule may be a separate document, if it passed on a different date, but if it did not pass on a different date, then it is just part of the document. A good example is Canada. They have the text of their constitution and then one schedule as their 1999 event, but the schedule is actually a previous constitution that still is in force. We code this as two documents. However, Pakistan 2002 has one annex and five schedules, and we are only counting that as one document, since it appears all of these were passed at the same time.

General CharacteristicsListing IndividualsYou should answer yes to the question about whether or not the constitution lists any political figures, theorists, or philosophers if any of these individuals are explicitly mentioned or if the thoughts or views of these individuals are mentioned (i.e. “Leninist thought” or “Maoist beliefs”).
General CharacteristicsForm of GovernmentFor the form of government question, we want to know the form of government the country claims to be. If there is no form mentioned, please put not specified, but if the form they claim is quite specific, please be as specific as possible.
ExecutiveExternal ExecutivesIf the country is a former British Colony, the Queen is most likely mentioned as the Head of State with a Governor-General to aid her. In this situation, please code the Governor-General as the Head of State and just mention the Queen in the comments. More generally, whenever a constitution provides for external executives (that is executives found outside the country in question) , mention them in the comments, but use the internal executives to answer the questions in the survey.
ExecutiveHead of Government AppointmentYes, if a body is given the power to appoint all ministers, then they are also given the power to select the Prime Minister, unless the constitution specifically gives another body the power to appoint the Prime Minister.
ExecutiveHead of Government ConfidenceYes, if the confidence of the legislature is required for the new Prime Minister, then the legislature implicitly approves the Prime Minister.
ExecutiveRequirements for Head of GovernmentYes, when the constitution refers to “being a member of the majority party” as a requirement for being the Head of Government, then the constitution is referring to the majority party in the legislature, so the head of government has to be a member of the legislature.
ExecutiveReasons for Dismissal of Head of GovernmentBy general dissatisfaction, we mean that the Head of Government can be dismissed for almost anything, including, but not limited to, loss of support and no confidence.
ExecutiveExecutive CommitteesIf only a committee is listed as either the head of state (i.e. the central executive committee in the USSR) or the head of government (i.e. the council of ministers in many parliamentary systems), please answer the questions in the executive category for the committee and list the leader of the committee as the head of state (i.e. the President of the central executive committee) or head of government (i.e. the prime minister of the council of ministers).
ExecutiveCircular Executive SelectionBelieve it or not, there really are constitutions where the Head of State is selected by the Legislature and the Head of State then selects the Head of Government, take Sri Lanka’s 1972 constitution for instance. As unusual as this procedure is, it is not a typo, and we want it coded just as it is presented in the constitution.
LegislatureBicameral LegislaturesWhen there are two houses in the legislature, the first chamber is referring to the house elected directly by the citizens or, if both chambers are elected by the same method, the largest chamber. The second chamber is referring to the house elected indirectly or, if both chambers are elected by the same method, the smaller chamber.
LegislatureInterpellating versus Investigating the ExecutiveInterpellate means to question formally about government policy, where investigate means to inquire into and draw conclusions about. Therefore, when the legislature interpellates the executive, it is examining the policy of the executive, but when it is investigating the executive, it is examining the actual executive, most likely for misconduct or impeachment proceedings.
LegislatureFinancial Legislation

There have been many questions what the difference is between the different kinds of financial legislation. Budget bills refer to legislation that lays out the revenues and expenditures for some period of time, usually in years. Finance bills refer to legislation specifically for the borrowing of money for governmental use, like loans from NGO’s, other countries, or even private individuals. Spending bills refer to legislation specifically for the expenditure of government money. Finally, tax bills refer to legislation specifically for collecting revenue for public use, usually in the form of taxes or tariffs.

Money bills are a special kind of financial legislation that some countries use. Money bills could refer to any kind of financial legislation depending on the context in which it is used. For instance, India uses the term money bill to refer to tax bills, but Pakistan uses money bills to refer to all four types of financial legislation.

JudiciaryReligious vs. Constitutional CourtsMany Islamic nations establish Islamic law as the source of law for the nation. To ensure all legislation conforms with Islamic law, they may set up a religious court that has the power to declare law void. If you find one of these special religious courts, please code it as the constitutional court, and answer the interpretation and constitutionality questions appropriately.
JudiciaryUltra-vires ActionsUltra-vires is from the latin for “beyond the power”, so ultra-vires actions are actions taken by governmental bodies or agencies that are beyond the scope of the power granted to them by the constitution or body that created them. You should answer yes to the question about whether or not the constitution provides protection against these actions if the constituion either provides for compensation for individuals hurt by ultra-vires actions or a procedure for individuals to seek redress for hurt caused by these actions.
JudiciaryDivided High CourtsSome constitutions have a divided high court. For instance, in Guyana, the surpreme court is divided into a high court and appellate court. In these cases, you can combine the two parts into one high court when coding, so you would answer “high court only” if this is the only court mentioned.

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