Our Constitution reorganized and consolidated

Allow me to introduce this academic study with a fact: In 1917, Article 41 of the Constitution contained 63 words; today it has more than 4,000. This trend toward gigantism affects many other provisions and has caused the Mexican Constitution to be the second largest in the world as far as the number of words; only India’s Constitution is longer. This fact reveals a trend that started getting out of control and has transformed the constitutional reform into a nearly daily practice. This practice has allowed modernization of laws and institutions, channeling the processes of political change via the law; however, it has been costly in terms of technique and regulatory stability.

Currently in the Mexican Constitution there are duplicated provisions, inconsistent terminology, regulatory imbalances, disorder, and articles that are practically regulatory. This chaos has transformed it into an instrument of laws that is inaccessible and confusing. In fact, I dare to venture that few Mexicans have read it and fewer still who understand it. This is not a minor matter for it blocks the creation of a State of Law as it inhibits the development of a constitutional culture in the nation.

Using these premises as a starting point, the Institute of Legal Research, working with the Ibero-American Institute of Constitutional Law (IIDC), took on the task of conducting a technical review of the constitutional text, which one can see on this Web site. In the printed version of this academic study that was conducted for the Chamber of Deputies, we reordered and consolidated the Mexican Constitution. We did so being careful not to delete general regulations, nor to alter the political agreements that sustain the current Constitution. In this regard we did not propose to write the ideal Constitution for Mexico, nor did we delete or add provisions that conform to our ideological convictions. We simply optimized the Constitution of 1917, current as of 2015, to make it clearer, more orderly, and thus, easier to read.

To achieve this, besides carrying out a technical revision of the actual text, we elaborated a “Constitutional Development Law” that, in our study, is a sort of complement to the Constitution. This law, which has been proposed at other points in our history and which already exists in other countries, includes some provisions that, while they remain important, excessively enlarge the Constitution. This, as the reader can find out in the “introductory study,” allowed us to delete more than 14,000 words from the constitutional text, which represents a reduction of 17.5 percent of its content. In this way, the text, besides being reordered and consolidated, became briefer but not deficient. This was possible because that Constitutional Development Law is a sort of extension of the Constitution.

Those of us who developed the study, which was coordinated by Héctor Fix-Fierro and Diego Valadés, are aware that constitutions, besides being juridical instruments, are political documents. We are also aware that some people, even within our institute, have been backing – but not without reason – a call for a constitutional convention to approve a new constitution. Both issues are important, and they deserve attention and discussion, especially now that the centenary of the text approved in 1917 is approaching, and now that the reality of the country calls for actions by institutions to transform our social environment, which is still marked by inequality and exclusion.

Our study does not ignore the first nor is it necessarily against plans for a new constitution. It simply addresses another dimension of our constitutional troubles. We believe that a reordered and consolidated Constitutional text, along with a Constitutional Development Law, would be much better – for the political, legal and social life – than what we have now. By improving the technical aspect of our constitutional text, we would make it accessible to all, and, at the same time, strengthen its stability and efficiency. With that we would gain juridical certainty and security.

On this basis we could continue discussing if that is the Constitution that we want for Mexico. But in that valid – and perhaps necessary – debate, the starting point would be an orderly text that can be read now. The work was published in a printed version by Talleres Gráficos de la Nación in August of 2015, and it is now available in this electronic version.

Here one can see an illustrated comparison between the current Constitution up to the point when we conducted the study (which will be continuously updated) and the texts of the Reordered and Consolidated Constitution and the Constitutional Development Law. Also available are these two complete documents. The departments of Information Technology and Communication and of Legislation and Jurisprudence of the IIJ-Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México designed this microsite, which will allow readers to know what changes we are proposing. That way one can confirm that we did not alter the text of our Constitution. We simply reorganized it and consolidated it. We hope you enjoy our study, and if you think it is a good idea, we hope that you will help disseminate it.

Pedro Salazar Ugarte
Director IIJ-UNAM