peer 1 response:
Question #1: In the United States it is quite difficult to amend the Constitution. This is not the case in many European countries. Pick a European country of your choice and describe the process by which lawmakers or citizens can amend their constitution. Do you think this is a useful process for the country you have chosen? Why or why not?
The process of changing an amendment in the United States is well known for being tedious and time consuming. The United States’ constitution is rigid, and this can be beneficial for the country to ensure that short term goals of a majority are not allowed to change the constitution on a whim. However, because of the inflexibility of the United States constitution it constrains the nation from making any quick and easy changes to it sometimes to a fault. The process of amending the constitution is very different in countries across Europe. Some of the amendment processes to their constitutions are much easier to make than in the United States. In places like France, the country has had various versions of their constitution over the years.
The French constitution in stark contrast to the United States constitution is less ridged. The process to amend the constitution is more focused on the changes their constituents want rather than preserving the rigidness of the actual constitution itself. The French constitution can be amended in two traditional ways. The first being that if both the houses of parliament can come together and vote with a 60% approval rating, then the proposal can be passed. The second option is that if this does not work, the proposal moves to referendum. A newer route of amending the French constitution has developed during the changes that have occurred to constitution allowing the direct election of the President. Using this method, the government may propose a change to the French constitution and then the President is permitted to refer it to the people of France for referendum.
This method is evidence of the laxity that the French constitution possesses that the United States constitution does not. Additionally, the new process of sending the amendments to referendum via the president has largely been unopposed by the people. Frances’ preferred process to amend its constitution allows for change to occur when necessary and overall seems to have been beneficial for the country. Although this process may allow for swifter change in a country at the hands of a majority, it can be appreciated that the political culture in France through its amendment processes demonstrate the higher value of nations constituency opinions than preserving the constitution. However, it is concerning that the power of Judicial review in France seems to be much weaker. The French Constitutional Council exists; however, it is not given the power of a formal judicial body. When the French Constitutional Court does act it seems too often suggest an alteration of wording to make a proposal “constitutional.” Judicial review is important to keep the proposal of amendments in line with the basis of the constitution in place in the United States; however, given the flexibly of the French Constitution, the French version of judicial review seems to fit the political culture well.
peer 2 response;
The amendment of the constitution is very different both in Europe and in the United States. In many European countries such as Denmark, Ireland, Romania, and Switzerland, the amendment of the constitution is much easier than in a country like the U.S. France is a country where the processes and methodologies differ. France’s current constitution is the Constitution of the Fifth Republic. It was drafted in 1958 as a response to the fall of the previous Fourth Republic. The Fifth Republic established what is known as a semi-presidential system in which the both the president (the head of state) as well as the prime minister (the head of government) share power.
While there have been changes made to the current constitution in place made by parliament, many of them have been made by referendum. This term describes a direct vote by the electorate on a proposal. The most important change made to the Fifth Republic was “the 1962 amendment that introduced the direct election of the president” (Gallagher, Laver, & Mair, 2011, p.90). The French constitution can be amended in two principal ways. The first way is outlined in Article 89 which discusses the procedure under which both of the Houses of Parliament need to agree on any proposed change. A meeting needs to be held, both houses need to come together, and if there is a 60% agreement, it goes into referendum. The French senate is mostly comprised of conservatives leading to changes proposed by the more liberal side will face a battle if they want to changes proposed to be passed by members of parliament. This counters the fact that many conservative changes proposed that have been passed without the referendum phase.
The second way the French constitution can be amended if highlighted in Article 11. It states that the government may propose a specific change. The president can refer this change directly to the people in the referendum. The president tells the government what to be proposed and usually, the president announces the referendum before receiving the government’s proposal. While the constitution does not have any mention of these proceedings, this process has become widely accepted through-out the country will little objection. The French citizens feel that there is a right to change the constitution present in their government.
I personally believe that this is a useful process for the country. I think that amending the constitution is a very difficult process in many countries and France has processes put in place to make changes in respond to the current times and the issues facing government, policies, and more. The process is a lot more simplified and makes it easier to address problems. I think that the approval of French citizens is also an important factor being as it makes for a more unified society (in the political sense). I think that if the citizens have no objections, the president informs the public, and parliament makes the decisions to amend the constitution on a majority vote, it is a proper process. Every country is different though, so what works for one country does not necessarily work for another, but I believe in the context of France and their proceedings, the process of amending the constitution fits perfectly.
Gallagher, Michael, Laver, Michael, and Mair, Peter. 2011. Representative Government in Modern Europe (5th Edition). New York: McGraw Hill.