In a CONSTITUTIONAL DEMOCRACY the authority of the majority is limited by legal and institutional means so that the rights of individuals and minorities are respected. This is the form of democracy practiced in Germany, Israel, Japan, the United States, and other countries.
This framework is intended to assist interested persons in various nations in establishing or improving curricular programs which foster an understanding of and support for constitutional democracy. The outline must be adapted to fit the circumstances and needs of individual political communities.
I. WHAT ARE THE ESSENTIAL CHARACTERISTICS AND PRINCIPLES OF CONSTITUTIONAL DEMOCRACY?
CONSTITUTIONAL DEMOCRACY is the antithesis of arbitrary rule. It is democracy characterized by:
A. POPULAR SOVEREIGNTY. The people are the ultimate source of the authority of the government which derives its right to govern from their consent.
B. MAJORITY RULE AND MINORITY RIGHTS. Although "the majority rules," the fundamental rights of individuals in the minority are protected.
C. LIMITED GOVERNMENT. The powers of government are limited by law and a written or unwritten constitution which those in power obey.
D. INSTITUTIONAL AND PROCEDURAL LIMITATIONS ON POWERS. There are certain institutional and procedural devices which limit the powers of government. These may include:
1. SEPARATED AND SHARED POWERS. Powers are separated among different agencies or branches of government. Each agency or branch has primary responsibility for certain functions such as legislative, executive, and judicial functions. However, each branch also shares these functions with the other branches.
2. CHECKS AND BALANCES. Different agencies or branches of government have adequate power to check the powers of other branches. Checks and balances may include the power of judicial reviewÀ"Àthe power of courts to declare actions of other branches of government to be contrary to the constitution and therefore null and void.
3. DUE PROCESS OF LAW. Individual rights to life, liberty, and property are protected by the guarantee of due process of law.
4. LEADERSHIP SUCCESSION THROUGH ELECTIONS. Elections insure that key positions in government will be contested at periodic intervals and that the transfer of governmental authority is accomplished in a peaceful and orderly process. www.civiced.org