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Accession is a process by which a country becomes a member of an international agreement or of another state. For example, all but the original fifteen colonies in the United States were granted accession into the United States.

Administrative Courts

Administrative courts hear enforcement cases for administrative agencies or consider appeals to agency rules.

Amparo/Courts of Amparo

Amparo is a writ of constitutional protection found in Latin America. It allows the individual claimant to seek relief from the challenged governmental act without holding the act itself unconstitutional.

Analogical Interpretation of the LawAnalogical means connecting a likeliness in things that are otherwise unalike. Therefore, analogical interpretation of the law means to connect laws, and possibly the precedents that follow these laws, based on their few likelinesses, even though these law are mostly unalike.

Appointed (Head of Government)

By Head of Government appointment, we are referring to cases where the Head of Government is selected by other government institutions, such as the head of state, legislature, or the courts


To approve means to confirm or sanction formally, regardless of the particular language used in the Constitution. For example, in the United States, the Senate approves Supreme Court candidates nominated by the President.


The protection that countries grant to refugees.

Attorney General

In most common law jurisdictions, the Attorney General is the main legal adviser to the government, and in some jurisdictions may in addition have executive responsibility for law enforcement or responsibility for public prosecutions.


see Indigenous Persons

Basic Law

This is a list of articles about the fundamental constitutional laws, known as Basic Laws, of various jurisdictions. Often, the use of the term "Basic Law" rather than "constitution" is intentional to imply that the Law is seen as a temporary measure in place of a more permanent constitution as was the case of Germany.

Budget BillsThe bill setting forth the spending and revenue proposals for the up-coming year(s).

Cabinet Responsibility

Cabinet responsibility refers to situations when the cabinet is collectively responsible for government policy.


When we refer to the capital, we are refering to where most of the government business takes place. For example, in the Dutch constitution, Amsterdam is specified as the capital and The Hague is specifed as the seat of government, but all the goverment activity takes place at The Hague, where only the coronation of new kings and queens takes place in Amsterdam. Therefore, since most of the government acitivity takes place in The Hague, it would be the capital in this case, not the named capital of Amsterdam.

Capital Punishment

Capital punishment, also referred to as the death penalty, is the judicially ordered execution of a prisoner as a punishment for a serious crime, often called a capital offense or a capital crime.

Categorical Vote

A single vote for either one candidate or one party.


The action of suppressing in whole or in part something that is considered politically or morally objectionable.

Central Bank

A nations main regulatory bank. Traditionally, its primary responsibility is development and implementation of monetary policy.

Central Representative Body

Another name for the legislature. We refer to it as the central representative body, because their are some cases where this body is not given the power to legislate, hence it is not necessarily a legislature.

Civil Servants

People who work for government departments or agencies.

Commander in Chief

Commander-in-Chief (in NATO-lingo often C-in-C or CINC pronounced "sink") is the commander of all the military forces within a particular region or of all the military forces of a state.

Compulsory Voting

see Mandatory Voting

Constitutional Court

A Constitutional Court is a high court found in many countries which deals primary with constitutional law. Its main authority is to rule on whether or not challenged laws (and sometimes administrative acts) are in fact unconstitutional, and conflicting with constitutionally established rights and freedoms.

Corporal Punishment

Corporal punishment is the deliberate infliction of pain intended as correction or punishment.

Counter Corruption Commission

An institution set up to eliminate or prevent corruption in government.

Cumulative Voting

A semi-proportional system of voting in which each voter has as many votes as there are seats to fill, but each voter may give all of his/her votes to one candidates, or split them up as s/he desires.

Decree Authority

Decree is an order that has the force of law. Here, we are referring to decrees issued by the executive branch.

Deputy Executive

A deputy is an assistant with the power to act when his superior is absent. Here, the deputy executive is an assistant that can take the place of the executive when injured, sick, killed, etc. Some possible titles for this individual are Vice President, Deputy Prime Minister, etc.

d’Hondt Method

The d’Hondt method is a method for allocating seats in party-list proportional representation. After all the votes have been tallied, successive quotients are calculated for each list. The formula for the quotient is [V/(S+1)], where V is the total number of votes that list received, and S is the number of seats that party has been allocated so far (initially 0 for all parties). Whichever list has the highest quotient gets the next seat allocated, and their quotient is recalculated given their new seat total. The process is repeated until all seats have been allocated. The rationale behind this procedure is to allocate seats in proportion to the number of votes a list received, by maintaining the ratio of votes received to seats allocated as close as possible. This makes it possible for parties having relatively few votes to be represented. In some cases, a threshold or barrage is set, and any list which does not receive that threshold will not have any seats allocated to it, even if it received enough votes to otherwise have been rewarded with a seat.

Dignity of Man

Dignity refers to the quality of being worthy of esteem or respect, so the dignity of man means the ability of individuals to be able to gain and sustain a particulary status or level of respect.

Dismissal of Head of Government

For all questions referring to the dismissal of the Head of Government, we are referring to normal dismissal procedures as well as vote of confidence procedures.


The means by which a Legislature comes to an end before an election.

District Magnitude

The number of candidates to be elected from an electoral district.


By divisions, we mean something that is uniform throughout the constitution, not sub-sections that only appear sporadically.


The number of documents that make up the constitution. (NOTE: This question is quite problematic. In the US case, the Constitution is a single document with 27 amendments. So the answer is either (1); (28); or (19) if you count all the Bill of Rights as a single document. Plus one of the amendments was repealing another one (prohibition). For our purposes, the US Constitution is one document. An example of a multiple document constitution is Israel. The Israeli Constituion is 6 basic laws and the Declaration of Independence.)

Double Jeopardy

Double Jeopardy refers to being charged twice for the same crime. Therefore a prohibition against double jeopardy means that no individual can be charged for the same crime if they were already found not guilty in trial.

Drafted/Published (Date)

This refers to the date the constitution was originally written.

Droop Quota

The Droop Quota is the formula that is used to calculate the minimum number, or quota, of votes required to capture a seat in a multi-member constituency using Proportional Representation through the Single Transferable Vote. In mathematical terms, the Droop Quota is the smallest integer greater than [Votes / (Seats + 1)]+1. This gives the Droop Quota the special property that it is the smallest integral quota (although not the smallest quota) which guarantees that the number of candidates able to reach this quota cannot exceed the number of seats. In the case of a single seat, it, of course, degenerates into a simple integral majority quota (Instant-runoff voting).

Due Process

The procedure or process required for a given judgment to be fair. Fairness here is specified in terms of the process rather than the outcome.

DutyDuties refer to obligations or requirements of the state or citizens. For example, in most corporatist countries, citizens have a duty to join trade unions. However, in many countries, citizens have right to form and join trade unions. The duty in coporatist countries means that these citizens must join them, but the right in these other countries means that the state and/or other citizens may not encumber their ability to join these, not that citizens have to join.

Electoral Commission

An institution set up to manage and supervise elections.

Electoral Court

A court set up to decide electoral disputes, usually ex post.

Electoral System

The structures and processes necessary to hold an election including the electoral laws, system of appointment, redistribution and voting.


A body of persons appointed (sometimes ad hoc, sometimes on a long-standing basis) to select individuals for office. For example, the United States Senate used to be selected by the State Legislatures, so the members of the State Legislatures were the electors.

Ethnic Group

We have chosen to define ethnic groups broadly; therefore, any of the following could be included in the category ethnic groups: castes, nationalities, linguistic groups, racial groups, etc.

Ex Post Facto Laws

Ex post facto literally means after the fact. Legislation is called ex post facto if the law attempts to extend backwards in time or punish acts committed before the date of the law’s approval. Therefore, a prohibition of ex post facto laws means that government officials cannot make laws that punish crime crimes committed before the law was enacted.

Executive Cabinet/Ministers

Group of key executive advisors which includes the Secretaries, Ministers, or heads of each Department of the national government.


The government’s act of taking title to property owned by a private party without that party’s consent under the authority of a law or statute.


The surrender by one state to another of an individual accused or convicted of an offense outside its own territory, and within the territorial jurisdiction of the other.

First Chamber

The house of the Legislature elected by universal suffrage on the basis of population. If two houses share this characteristic, it is the larger of the two houses in terms of number of members. In the United States, this would be the House of Representatives.

First Election Method

In a mixed system, this refers to the election method by which the most members are elected

Freedom of Assembly

The right of people to gather together peacefully in public, whether for political, religious, or personal reasons.

Freedom of Association

Freedom of association is the right to meet and interact freely, without the interference of the state or others. This is slightly different than freedom of assembly, because assembly refers to the ability to meet in public places, where association refers to the ability of individuals to meet in, form, and join organizations.

Freedom of Conscience

Freedom of conscience is the freedom of an individual to hold a viewpoint, or thought, without state coercion.

Freedom of Religion

Freedom of religion refers to an individual’s right to practice whatever religious beliefs one wants

Fundamental Law

Law outlining the basic principles, powers and structure of a government.

General Election

An election involving most or all constituencies in a state (or nation) in choosing candidates for office and voting on ballot measures.

Habeas Corpus

Habeas Corpus is a prerogative writ which requires the state to produce in court a person in its custody and justify his or her imprisonment. It gives a person the right to challenge his or her detention by state authorities.

Hare Quota

The Hare quota is a formula used to calculate the minimum number, or quota, of votes required to capture a seat in some forms of single transferable vote or largest remainder method party-list proportional representation voting systems. In mathematical terms, the quota=[total number of votes/total number of seats]. It produces larger numerical quotas, which has the effect of increasing the number of candidates elected without receiving a full quota.

Head of Government

The head of government is the leader of the government or cabinet. In a parliamentary system, the head of government is known as a premier or prime minister. In presidential systems, the head of government may be the same person as the head of state which is usually titled president. In some semi-presidential systems, the head of government is a separate premier or prime minister. If a prime minister is mentioned in the Constitution, he should always be coded as a head of government, no matter how week or strong he might appear.

Head of State

A head of state or chief of state is the chief public representative of a nation-state, federation or commonwealth, whose role generally includes personifying the continuity and legitimacy of the state and exercising the political powers, functions and duties granted to the head of state in the country’s constitution.

Highest Average Method

The highest averages method is one way of allocating seats proportionally for representative assemblies with party list voting systems. The highest averages method requires the number of votes for each party to be divided successively by a series of divisors, and seats are allocated to parties that secure the highest resulting quotient, up to the total number of seats available.

Highest Ordinary Court

The highest ordinary court refers to the ordinary court [see ordinary court below] which has final say in the judicial process.

Human Rights Commission

Human Rights Commissions are institutions set up to ensure that individual and group rights are not being violated, either by government, other individuals, or groups.


Immunity confers a status on a person or body that makes that person or body free from otherwise legal processes enforcing obligations that wouuld otherwise apply, such as, liability for damages or punishment for criminal acts.

Imperiali Quota

The Imperiali quota is a formula used to calculate the minimum number, or quota, of votes required to capture a seat in some forms of single transferable vote or largest remainder method party-list proportional representation voting systems. In mathematical terms, the quota=[number of votes/(number of seats+2)].

Inalienable Rights

Inalienable rights refers to the concept of rights that are completely inseparable from those to whom they belong.


The indicting process is the formal process for bringing charges against a suspect

Indigenous Persons

The word indigenous is derived from the latin word indigena, meaning native, indigenous, aboriginal, and refers to the native people of a place.


Inheritance refers to the right to receive property


Initiate means to begin or start a particular action, regardless of its formal designation in the constitution. For our purposes, this means the first formal step in an act of governmnet. For example, if a member of the legislature may propose legislation, we would characterize that as the power to initiate.


The initiative (also known as popular or citizen’s initiative) provides a means by which a petition signed by a certain minimum number of registered voters can force a public vote on a proposed statute, constitutional amendment, charter amendment, or ordinance.

Intellectual Property

Creative ideas and expressions of the human mind that possess commercial value and receive the legal protection of a property right. The major legal mechanisms for protecting intellectual property rights are copyrights, patents, and trademarks. Intellectual property rights enable owners to select who may access and use their property, and to protect it from unauthorized use.

International Law

International law deals with the relationships between states, or between persons or entities in different states. It includes treaties and customary international law, sometimes called the "Law of Nations"

International Organizations

An international organization (also called intergovernmental organization) is an organization of international scope or character. There are two main types of international organizations: international inter-governmental organizations, whose members are sovereign states; and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which are private organizations. Generally the term international organization is used to mean inter-governmental organizations only.


Interpellate means to question formally about policy or government business. It is a frequent feature of parliamentary systems.

Judicial Council/Commission

By judicial council/commission, we are referring to an independent body that is composed of experts in law who are important in the selection process for judges, as well as sometimes discipline and removal.

Labor Courts

Specialized courts designed to decide labor disputes.

Largest Remainder Method

The largest remainder method requires the number of votes for each party to be divided by a quota representing the number of votes required for a seat, and this gives a notional number of seats to each, usually including an integer and either a fraction or alternatively a remainder. Each party receives seats equal to the integer. This will generally leave some seats unallocated: the parties are then ranked on the basis of the fraction or equivalently on the basis of the remainder, and parties with the larger fractions or remainders are each allocated one additional seat until all the seats have been allocated. This gives the method its name.


See Rechtsstaat

Length in Words

Here we want to know the absolute number of words in the constitutional document. We imagine that this can be done by using the Word Count feature in the Tools menue of Microsoft word. For those constitutions not on the computer, please count the number of words. Also, please do not include, footnotes, header information, the table of contents, or any other information added by the translators/editors in your word count


Libel refers to false and malicious publications or statements for the purpose of defaming a living person

Local/Municipal Government

Local/municipal government refers to government at the level of the city, town, or village

Majority (Alternative Vote Method)

This majority system is based upon, full, standard, and preferential voting. Accordingly electors are required to number all candidates in order of preference. A candidate requires an absolute majority ie 50% of the formal first preference vote plus one, in order to be elected. Where a candidate does not attain an absolute majority of first preference votes, a process is then commenced where the candidate with the fewest votes in the count is excluded and the ballot papers of the excluded candidate are examined and recounted based on the remaining candidates. This process continues until there is a majority winner.

Majority (By an unspecified method)In any majority electoral system, there is necessariliy a method of deciding the winner when no single option has a majority of the votes cast. However, the method is not always specified in the constitution, so this is what we mean by majority by unspecified method.

Majority (Two-Round Method)

This majority system uses a two round system of voting. In the first round, each voter casts one vote, and when these votes are tallied, the candidate with a majority of the votes wins the election. If there is no majority winner, the two candidates with the highest percent of votes run in a second round election. Then, the candidate with the most votes in the second round wins the election.

Mandatory Voting

This includes explicit references to compulsory voting as well as penalties for non-voting, like forfeiture of voting privileges or fines


The term meritocratic describes government by persons selected according to merit in competition.

Military Courts

Specialized courts designed to decide military cases, typically involving discipline of soldiers for criminal-type activity. Typically, these provide fewer protections to the defendent than do ordinary courts.

Mixed Electoral SystemsMixed electoral systems have TWO methods of choosing members of the legislature. A good example is Germany. In Germany, about half the legislatures are chosen through single member districts, and the remaining members are chosen through proportional representation.

Money BillsSome constitutions refer to money bills, rather than budget, finance, spending, or tax bills. However, the exact meaning of a money bill is determined by the context in which it is used. For instance, in India it is clear that money bills refer only to tax bills. However, in Pakistan, it is clear money bills refer to budget, finance, spending, AND tax bills.

Non-Derogable Rights

Non-derogable rights are those not limited in times of national emergency.

Nulla Poena Sine Lege

Nulla poena sine lege literally means no penalty without a law. This refers to the legal principle that one cannot be penalised for doing something that isn’t prohibited by law.


A public official or representative appointed to investigate citizens’ complaints against local agencies and programs that may be infringing on the rights of individuals.

Ordinal Vote

A rank ordering of votes for either candidates or parties.

Ordinary Courts

By ordinary courts, we mean courts of general jurisdiction. For example, the Supreme Court, Appellate Courts, and District Courts in the United States. By contrast, specialized courts include the constitutional court, military courts, and administrative courts.

Organic LawOrganic law comes from the civil law tradition (i.e. France). These laws usually regulate the functioning and structure of government, and sometimes have special procedures through which they must be passed.

Parallel LegislationParallel legislation refers to legislation where both houses must act simultaneously, so when we ask about coordination of parallel legislation, we want you to provide us with the procedure used to pass legislation which is simultaneously acted on by both chambers of the legislature.


A pardon is the forgiveness of a crime and the penalty associated with it. It is usually granted by a sovereign power, such as a head of government or head of state.


By right to petition, we mean the right to submit individual or group level grievances to government


see Referendum


A term related to the "first past the post" system of voting. The candidate who attains the highest number of votes in an election or ballot attains a plurality or "simple majority" of votes and is elected.

Plurality, plus distributionPlurality, plus distribution refers to systems like Nigeria where officials need to win a plurality of the vote AND must have a certain level of support throughout the district to be elected.


A preliminary introduction to a statute or constitution

Preference Voting

A ranked ballot or preferential voting system is a type of voting system in which each voter casts their vote by ranking candidates in order of preference.

Price Stability

An economy with relatively consistent values of goods and services from year to year, all things being equal.


Promulgation is the act of formally proclaiming new legislation to the public. This occurs when the law receives final formal approval.

Proportional Vote

Proportional representation (PR) is any of various multi-winner electoral systems which try to ensure that the proportional support gained by different groups is accurately reflected in the election result. Proportional representation is also used to describe this intended effect.


Put forward for consideration or action. For example, in the United States, a member of Congress may propose an amendment to the constitution.

Public Recall

Recall refers to the act of removing a public official by petition by the people.

Put into Force (Date)

This is the date in which the constitution or a law is put into effect.

Qualified PluralitySome plurality systems have adopted rules which require the winner to achieve a certain percent of the votes, less than 50%, in addition to having the most votes. These are often referred to as qualified plurality systems.


The number of members of a house, committee, or other group that must be present before the group may conduct official business.


A quota is a prescribed number. For example, an ethnically divided country may prescribe that each ethnic group has at least five members in the legislature.


Recht means right or law, and staat means state. Therefore, this means where law prevails over the state. It is a continental concept that bears some similarity to the Rule of Law in the Anglo-American tradition.


The submission of a law, proposed by the Legislature or already in effect, to a direct vote of the people.

Religious Law

Law that originates in a religious tradition, which may be of divine origin.


Remuneration means wages and other benefits received as compensation for employment. Therefore, just remuneration refers to just wages from compensation.

Repugnancy ClauseThe repugnancy clause is an explicit declaration in a constitution that any law contrary to a certain religion’s beliefs is void.  This is mostly in Islamic constitutions.

Residual Law Maker

The person or body who has the power to make laws in any substantive domains, which are not explicitly granted to another person or body.

Rule of Law

See Rechtsstaat

Saint Laguë Method

The Sainte-Laguë method of the highest average (also known as Webster’s method or divisor method with standard rounding) is one way of allocating seats proportionally for representative assemblies with party list voting systems. The Sainte-Laguë method is a divisor method, like the d’Hondt method, but with a different divisor. After all the votes have been tallied, successive quotients are calculated for each list. The formula for the quotient is V/(2S+1), where V is the total number of votes that list received, and S is the number of seats that party has been allocated so far, initially 0 for all parties. Whichever list has the highest quotient gets the next seat allocated, and their quotient is recalculated given their new seat total. The process is repeated until all seats have been allocated.

Same Cohort vs. Staggered Cohorts

Officials elected in the same cohort all run for election at the same time. A good example of this occurs in the United States House of Representatives, where the entire house is replaced every two years. Officials elected in staggered cohorts run for election in different years. For example, in the United States Senate, 1/3 of the Senate is up for election every two years, so it takes six years to completely replace the Senate.


The act of withdrawing from an organized political body, such as when the southern states withdrew from the United States in 1861.

Second Chamber

In bicameral systems, the house of the Legislature that is either (1) NOT elected by universal suffrage on the basis of population (e.g. the United States Senate represents the states); or (2) the smaller of two houses if both are elected by universal suffrage on the basis of population.

Second Election Method

In a mixed system, this refers to the election method by which the fewest members are elected

Self Determination

Self-determination is a principle in international law that a people ought to be able to determine their own governmental forms and structure free from outside influence. However, there may be a reference to self-determination of individuals, meaning the free right to develop one’s personality.

Single Non-transferable Vote

In any particular constituency election, each voter casts one vote for one candidate in a multi-candidate race for multiple legislative seats. Those candidates receiving the most votes win office.

Single Transferable Vote

The Single Transferable Vote, or STV, is a preference voting system designed to minimise wasted votes in multi-candidate elections while ensuring that votes are explicitly for candidates rather than party lists. In its most basic form, it works by allocating an elector’s vote to their highest ranked candidate who has not already been removed from contention through either election or elimination.

Social Contract

This refers to an actual or hypothetical contract providing the legitimate basis of sovereignty and civil society and of the rights and duties constituting the role of citizen. The contract can be agreed between people and a proposed sovereign or among the people themselves.


Sovereignty is the exclusive right to exercise supreme authority over a geographic region or group of people, such as a nation or a tribe. Sovereignty is generally vested in a government or other political agency, though there are cases where it is held by an individual.

Spending Bills

Spending bills refer to legislation for disbursing government funds.

State of Emergency

A state of emergency is a governmental declaration that may suspend certain normal functions of government or may work to alert citizens to alter their normal behaviors or to order government agencies to implement their emergency preparedness plans. It can also be used as the rationale for suspending civil liberties; such declarations come during time of natural disaster or during periods of civil unrest or a declaration of war.

Subsidiary Units

By subsidiary units, we mean any of the following: states, provinces, districts, departments, etc.


Suffrage is the civil right to vote, or the exercise of that right.


Often used for important legislation, a supermajority requires a specified percent of the vote, but more than 50%, must be achieved to approve the legislation. This amount is usually specified in the constitution.

Supplementary/Substitute Members of the Legislature

Supplementary or substitute members of the legislature are provided for in some countries. These are individuals named by individual legislatures to vote in their absence.

Tax Bills

Tax bills refer to legislation for gathering revenue from the citizens.

Tax Courts

Specialized courts designed to settle tax disputes and enforce tax laws.

Term Length

This is the length of time in years a government official serves.

Term Limit

This is the limit on the number of terms granted to a government official.


Testate refers to the right to give property freely after death

Transitional Provisions

Transitional provisions refer to the provisions used for adopting the new constitution or switching from one constitution to the next.


A treaty is a binding agreement under international law concluded by subjects of international law, namely states and international organizations.

Ultra-Vires Administrative Actions

This phrase refers to the use of excess power by administrative agencies.


The word veto comes from Latin and literally means I forbid. It is used to denote that a certain party has the right to unilaterally stop a certain piece of legislation. A veto thus gives unlimited power to stop changes, but not to adopt them.

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