Comparative law tables regarding constitutional laws in Europe and Latin America

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EUROPE
(Chronological Order)

COUNTRY PRECEPTOS CONSTITUCIONALES
France (1958)

Name:Organic laws
Article 46. Acts defined under the Constitution as organic shall be passed and amended in the following manner. The bill or proposition shall not be submitted for debate and vote in the first House to which it is referred before the fifteen-day period after it has been introduced. The procedure provided for in Article 45 will be applied. Nevertheless, in the absence of agreement between the two Assemblies, a bill may be adopted by the National Assembly on final reading only by an absolute majority of its members. Organic laws relating to the Senate must be passed in the same wording by the two Assemblies. Organic laws may be promulgated only after the Constitutional Council has declared them constitutional.
Portugal (1976)

Name: Constitutional laws
Article 169. Form of acts:
1. The acts specified in Article 164(a) shall take the form of constitutional laws.
2. The acts specified in Article 164 (b) to (j) and Article 165 (b) to (j) shall take the form of law.
3. The acts specified in Article 166 (a) and (b) shall take the form of motions.
4. Other acts of the Assembly of the Republic shall take the form of resolutions.
5. Resolutions, excluding approval of international treaties, shall be published whether or not they are promulgated.
Spain (1978)

Name: Organic laws
Article 81.
1. Organic laws are those related to the development of fundamental rights and public liberties, those that are approved by Statutes of Autonomy and the general electoral regime and others provided for in the Constitution.
2. The approval, modification or repeal of organic laws requires an absolute majority of the Congress, in a final vote over the entire bill.

LATIN AMERICA
(Alphabetical Order)

COUNTRY PRECEPTOS CONSTITUCIONALES
Argentina

Name:
Not available
Article 77. Laws may originate in either Chamber of Congress, through bills proposed by their members or by the Executive Power, save for the exceptions that this Constitution establishes.
Bills that modify the electoral system and the system of political parties shall be approved by an absolute majority of the totality of the members of the Chambers. (Text set forth by law 24.430).
Brazil

Name: Supplemental laws
Article 59. The legislative procedure includes the preparation of:
1. amendments to the Constitution;
2. supplementary laws;
3. ordinary laws;
4. delegated laws;
5. provisional measures;
6. legislative decrees;
7. resolutions.
Sole paragraph. A supplemental law will regulate the preparation, drafting, amendment, and consolidation of laws.

Article 69. Supplementary laws shall be approved by absolute majority.
Chile

Name:
Constitutional organic laws
Article 63. Matters of law are only:
1) those which by virtue of the Constitution must be the object of constitutional organic laws;
2) those which the Constitution requires to be regulated by a law;
3) those which are the object of codification, whether civil, commercial, procedural, penal or other;
4) basic matters relative to the labor, union, precautionary and social security systems;
5) those that regulate public honors to prominent public servants;
6) those that modify the form or characteristics of the national emblems;

Article 66. The legal rules that interpret constitutional precepts will require, for their approval, modification or abrogation, three-fifths of the Deputies and Senators in office.
The legal rules to which the Constitution confers the character of constitutional organic laws will require, for their approval, modification or abrogation, four-sevenths of the Deputies and Senators in office.
The legal norms for a qualified quorum will be established, modified or abrogated by the absolute majority of the Deputies and Senators in office.
The other legal norms will require the majority of the members present in each Chamber, or the majorities applicable in conformity with Articles 68 and following.

Article 93. The powers of the Constitutional Court are:
1. To exercise the control of constitutionality of the laws that interpret any precept of the Constitution, of the constitutional organic laws and of the norms of a treaty that concern matters belonging to the latter, prior to their promulgation;
Colombia

Name: Statutory laws
Article 152. By means of statutory laws, the Congress of the Republic will regulate the following subjects:
a) Fundamental rights and duties of individuals and the procedures and actions for their protection;
b) Administration of justice;
c) Organization and regulations of parties and political movements; the statute on the opposition and electoral functions;
d) Institutions and machinery of citizens' participation;
e) States of emergency.
f) Addendum. Legislative Act 2/2004, Article 4. Electoral equality among the candidates for President of the Republic who meet the requirements established by law.
Transitory Paragraph. Addendum. A.L. 2/2004, Article 4. The national government or members of Congress shall present, before the first of March 2005, a draft statutory law to develop paragraph f) of Article 152 of the Constitution and also regulates, among others, the following matters: guarantees to the opposition, political participation of public officials, the right to equal access to the media that use the electromagnetic spectrum, predominantly state funding of the presidential campaigns, right of reply under conditions of equity when the President of the Republic is a candidate, and rules on disqualifications for candidates for the President of the Republic.
The bill will have an emergency clause and may be subject to an insistence clause if necessary. The Congress of the Republic will issue the statutory law before June 20, 2005. The terms for prior review by the Constitutional Court of the constitutionality of the statutory bill are reduced by half.

Article 153. The approval, amendment, or repeal of the statutory laws requires an absolute majority of the votes of the members of Congress and must be completed within a single legislative term.
Such procedure will include the prior review by the Constitutional Court of the constitutionality of the proposal. Any citizen may intervene to defend it or to oppose it.
Costa Rica

Name:
Not available
Article 105. The power to legislate resides in the People, who delegate this power, by means of election, to the Legislative Assembly. Such a power may not be waived or limited by any agreement or contract, either directly or indirectly, except in the case of treaties, in accordance with the principles of International Law.
The people may also exercise this power through a referendum to approve or repeal laws and partial amendments to the Constitution, when convoked by at least five percent (5%) of the citizens registered in the electoral roll, the Legislative Assembly, through the approval of two-thirds of all its members, or the Executive Branch together with an absolute majority of all the members of the Legislative Assembly.
A referendum shall not be admissible for Bills related to budgetary, tax, fiscal or monetary matters, credit, pensions, security, approval of public loans and contracts or acts of an administrative nature.
This instrument shall be regulated by two-thirds of all the members of the Legislative Assembly.

Article 123. During regular sessions, the initiative for the enactment of laws may be taken by any member of the Legislative Assembly, or by the Executive Branch, through the Cabinet Ministers and by at least five percent (5%) of the citizens registered in the electoral roll, if the bill is a popular initiative.
A popular initiative shall not be admissible for bills related to budgetary, tax or fiscal matters, or the approval of loans and contracts or acts of an administrative nature.
Bills of popular initiative must be voted on definitively within the deadline period indicated by law, except those pertaining to constitutional amendments, which shall follow the process stipulated in Article 195 of this Constitution.
A law adopted by two-thirds of all the members of the Legislative Assembly shall regulate the form, requirements and other conditions that must be fulfilled by bills of popular initiative.
Ecuador

Name:
Organic laws
Article 133. Laws shall be organic and ordinary.
The following shall be organic laws:
1. Those governing the organization and functioning of the institutions established by the Constitution.
2. Those governing the exercise of constitutional rights and guarantees.
3. Those governing the organization, jurisdiction, powers, and functioning of decentralized autonomous governments.
4. Those related to the system governing political parties and the electoral system.
The issuance, reform, repeal and interpretation of a generally mandatory nature of organic laws shall require an absolute majority of the members of the National Assembly.
The others shall be regular laws, which cannot amend or prevail over an organic law.
Guatemala

Name: Constitutional laws
Article 159. Majority for Resolutions The resolutions of the Congress must be reached through the favorable vote of the absolute majority of its members, except in those cases where the law requires a special number.

Article 175. Constitutional hierarchy. No law may contradict the provisions of the Constitution. The laws that violate or distort the constitutional mandates are null and void ipso jure.
To amend laws qualified as constitutional requires, the vote of two-thirds of the total number of deputies that compose the Congress, but only after a favorable ruling by the Court of Constitutionality.
Nicaragua

Name: Constitutional laws
Article 184. Constitutional Laws are: the Electoral Law, the Emergency Law and the Law of Amparo, enacted within the prevailing Political Constitution of Nicaragua.

Article 195. The reform of constitutional laws shall be made in accordance with the procedure established for partial reform of the Constitution, with the exception of the requirement of the two legislative sessions.

Article 192. A proposal for partial reform must specify the article or articles to be amended with a statement of the reasons for the modification. The proposal must be sent to a special commission, which shall issue an opinion within a period of no more than 60 days. The proposed reform shall then follow the process provided for the enactment of a statute. A proposal for partial reform must be discussed in two sessions of the National Assembly.

Article 194. Approval of a partial reform shall require a favorable vote by sixty percent of the members of the National Assembly. Two-thirds of the total membership is required to approve a total reform. The President of the Republic shall promulgate the partial reform and in this case may not exercise the right to veto.
Panamá

Name: Organic laws
Article 164. Laws originate in the National Assembly and are divided as follows:
a. Organic laws, which are those issued in fulfillment of Sections 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16 of Article 159;
b. Ordinary laws, which are those issued under the other sections of said Article.

Article 165. Laws shall be proposed:
1. If they are organic laws:
a. by permanent committees of the National Assembly;
b. by the Ministers of State, as authorized by the Cabinet Council;
c. by the Supreme Court, Attorney General of the Republic, and Solicitor General of the Administration, as long as they refer to the enactment or amendment of the National Codes;
d. by the Electoral Tribunal on matters within its jurisdiction;
2. If they are ordinary laws:
a. by any member of the National Assembly;
b. by Ministers of State upon authorization of the Cabinet Council;
c. by Presidents of Provincial Councils upon authorization of the Provincial Council.
All above-mentioned officials shall have the right to speak in the sessions of the National Assembly. The Presidents of the Provincial Councils and the members of the Electoral Tribunal will have the right to speak regarding draft laws that they have introduced.
To be enacted, organic laws require a favorable vote of the absolute majority of the members of the National Assembly in the second and third reading. Ordinary laws need only the approval of a majority of National Assembly members present during their respective sessions.
Perú

Name: Organic laws
Article 106. Organic laws regulate the structure and operation of the government entities provided for in the Constitution, as well as other matters whose regulation by organic law is established by the Constitution.
Organic laws in draft form are handled like any other law. The vote of over half of the legal number of members of Congress is required for their approval or modification.
Venezuela

Name: Organic laws
Article 203. Organic Laws are those designated as such by this Constitution, those enacted to organize public powers or to develop constitutional rights, and those which serve as a regulatory framework for other laws.
Any bill for the enactment of an organic law, except in the case of those defined as such in the Constitution itself, must first be accepted by the National Assembly, by a two-thirds vote of the members present before the beginning of debate on the bill. This qualifying vote shall also apply to the process of amending organic acts.
Laws defined by the National Assembly as organic acts shall be sent, prior to promulgation, to the Constitutional Division of the Supreme Court of Justice for a ruling on the constitutionality of their organic status. The Constitutional Division shall reach a decision within 10 days of receipt of the communication. If the Constitutional Division rules that the law is not organic, the law shall lose that status.
Enabling laws are those enacted by a three-fifths vote of the members of the National Assembly to establish the guidelines, purposes and framework for matters that are delegated to the President of the Republic, which have the rank and force of law. Enabling laws should set the period during which they are in force.

The topic of intermediate laws has been debated in Mexico by the respected jurist Héctor Fix-Zamudio. Fix-Zamudio argues that one way of mitigating the regulatory trend that is reflected in the constitutional reforms is by adopting a form of laws midway between the fundamental law and ordinary laws. He prefers to call them organic laws, as he rightly observes that constitutional laws are all those that have been declared in accordance with the Constitution. Agreeing fully with the view supported by the distinguishing jurist, there is the practical problem that there are already 26 laws that include in their name that of organic law.

On the other hand, one might argue that if today the term constitutional as applied to the laws, plays an adjectival function, the use of that same word could well be distinguished in its function as a noun. But the semantic differentiation based on the fact that the word constitutional in some cases would have an adjectival function and in others a noun function could cause confusion, which is contrary to the intention that this modality offer solutions rather than create new problems. Therefore, a less confusing term is preferred: constitutional development laws. Thus is the obstacle of the laws already known as organic and those classified as constitutional overcome, and, at the same time, the historical proposal of 1847 is utilized with a reasonable change.

The advantages of the introduction of constitutional development laws to the system of sources of Mexican law can be summarized as follows:

  1. These laws would keep the Constitution from having rules that incur excessive detail. It would allow Congress to adopt rules through an aggravated procedure that, while alleviating the excessive growth of the Constitution, would provide a new way to reach agreements between the representative forces, at the same time protecting political minorities in Congress.
  2. The duration of a consensus would be assured because the required majority is even greater than that required for constitutional reforms in Congress.
  3. It would expand the powers of the Supreme Court of Justice, introducing the prior control of constitutionality of laws.
  4. It would reduce the need for amendments and additions to the Constitution, thus bringing greater stability to the constitutional text and its jurisprudence and thereby contributing to legal certainty for citizens and the enhancement of legal culture.
  5. It would provide that amendments to the Constitution be drafted according to enhanced technical critera, at the same time encouraging the adoption of laws that are briefer and of more general content.

As is well known, the text of the Constitution has undergone numerous reforms. Although in the majority of cases it is possible to demonstrate their necessity and usefulness, their adoption has tended to become increasingly regulatory in character. At present, our supreme law is already among the most extensive in the world, and it is likely to continue to be the object of additions and reforms in the coming years. If we continue the pace of recent years, we will have a Constitution that is inaccessible to those who are not lawyers, and even to them.

The Constitution is the supreme law of the State, but this does not mean that it must contain all its legislation. On the contrary, as the heart of the national legal system, the Constitution can and should be brief – for several reasons. On the one hand, given its rank and importance, it is desirable that the citizenry in general be familiar with it. This becomes increasingly difficult due to its growing length and frequent changes. Secondly, it is important that the ordinary legislator can make the institutional adjustments that the times require, but always within what the Constitution provides and without having to submit it to endless adjustments that have made it become the most flexible of the legal codes in force in the country. Third, there is a constitutional court that controls the strict compliance with the fundamental law, so there is a full guarantee that Congress will never exceed the exercise of its powers.

In light of the arguments and the experiences already mentioned above, it is desirable to adopt the concept of “constitutional development laws”. These laws present two important differences compared to the others that Congress passes. On the one hand, a qualified majority, or two-thirds of the members present in each Chamber, is needed for their approval. This incorporates a principle of rigidity that gives stability to these laws. Thus, the consensus reached to formulate them will be maintained over time, although this will not prevent subsequent agreements from being translated into the reform or repeal of these constitutional development laws, but always by the same majority required for their approval.

A second element of the type of laws proposed is that they are made subject to an assessment of their constitutionality by the Supreme Court of Justice. The presidential veto is not applicable in this case, because in order to override it, the Constitution requires a majority in both chambers, which is equivalent to that which is proposed for its approval.

In sum: the Constitutional Development Law is distinguished from ordinary laws because (1) its approval requires a qualified majority in each chamber of the Congress of the Union, and (2) because of the way of addressing said observations through a prior opinion of constitutionality by the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation. Finally, the proposed law would reflect and develop in greater detail the general laws contained in the Constitution.