What is constitutional law

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Rules for the state and politics

"Exercising political rule" means that a constitution does not just specify which institutions there should be. It also regulates how decisions (e.g. laws or judgments by courts) are to be made, what the individual institutions of the state are allowed to do, and where limits are set.

The constitution states that all organs of the state may only act on the basis of laws. This regulates which state institutions exist, how the government is formed, what responsibilities it has and how the administration is to be structured. It stipulates that courts and judges must decide independently, and it also stipulates how the state institutions are controlled.

With a constitution, the claim is made to regulate the structure of a state in principle. This also means that everything that can happen in this state has to follow precise rules and is subject to restrictions.

Constitutional Reality and Political Practice

When speaking of the constitution of a state, however, it can also mean a description of how processes actually work in a state: who has influence, who determines issues, who can prevent projects, or how decisions are made.

In Austria it is z. B. so that the federal constitution provides a central position for parliament in a great many state affairs. In fact, however, the government and the ruling parties dominate large parts of politics. For example, it is regularly reported in the media that "the government has agreed on a law". Of course, the draft law is then submitted to the National Council and the Federal Council for approval. But even if changes are made there after intensive discussions, in often gives the public the impression that it is the government and not parliament that makes laws.

In addition to the formal constitution, there is the "lived" constitution - the so-called real constitution. The real constitution describes the various informal (as opposed to formal) processes that take effect in political events. This makes the influence of the federal government, the governors or the political parties clear. But you can never ignore the legal constitution.

The basic consensus in state and politics

With its rules, a constitution sets expectations for everyone who has functions and responsibilities in the state. Fulfilling these expectations is not a matter of course - for example, that parliament discusses laws in detail or that judges are independent. Therefore, these expectations must be particularly protected. And so everything that is decided by parliament and what the government does must also be measured against the constitution. It must be checked whether what is happening in politics and in the state corresponds to the rules that the citizens have drawn up for it. The constitution must therefore be accepted by all citizens of a state, but above all by the political parties and their representatives in parliament. It should be the basis of their political action.

The constitution is intended to ensure stability. This also means that constitutions cannot simply be changed.

In Austria, the constitution can only be changed if at least half of the members of the National Council are present at the vote and two-thirds of them are in favor of the change. In addition, constitutional laws must be precisely identified as such. Some constitutional laws can only be changed with the consent of the Federal Council. In the event of changes to the basic principles of the Federal Constitution, even the people have to vote on them.

Fundamental and human rights

Above all, however, a constitution should also regulate the rights and freedoms of every person in the state and vis-à-vis the state. It secures and guarantees human and fundamental rights. These are z. B. the right to life, the prohibition of torture and inhuman punishment or the prohibition of slavery. This includes the basic right that all people "are equal before the law" and must therefore be treated equally by the institutions of the state. Their rights must also be decided objectively and not simply arbitrarily. The right to private life and thus, for example, protection from arbitrary house searches or surveillance is guaranteed by the constitution.

The right to free opinion and the right to information are also part of fundamental and human rights. The right to assemble and demonstrate in public and the right to found an association or a party are also fundamental rights. There is a fundamental right to start a family and to respect family life. These and other rights are intended to guarantee that people can live in freedom and without fear, that the measures taken in laws are as fair and just as possible, and that everyone whose rights have been violated receives protection and asserts their rights can.