The Practice of Informal Changes to the Ethiopian Constitution … 367
A constitution outlines the major principles and the basic organization, structure,
and process of a state.2 Most of its content is brief, and “constitutions, by their
nature, operate in time, seeking to regulate the future on behalf of the past.”3
Many drafters of constitutions act as if their handiwork should last for a long
period of time.4 Indeed, every normative constitutional theory presumes that
constitutions are able to function over a relatively extended period of time.
Without endurance, constitutions cannot provide a stable basis of politics. This
assumption of endurance is built into the very idea of a constitution and closely
related to core normative issues, such as constitutional amendment.5
The idea of constitutional amendment stems from the argument that no
generation has a monopoly on knowledge enabling it to bind future generations
irreversibly, and that “a constitution that will not bend will break”.6 There is
thus an ‘inherent right’ to amend a constitution in order to perfect
‘imperfections’ and to strengthen its provisions where necessary.7 Amendment
denotes the idea of making correction or improvement in the text of a written
constitution.8 Formal constitutional amendment is more of a norm and continues
as a widely shared and intrinsic quality of national constitutions.9 The primary
means of legitimate adjustment on constitutional document is a formal
procedure specified in the Constitution itself.10 It is equally important to bear in
2 Donald J. Boudreaux and A. C. Pritchard (1993), Rewriting the Constitution: An Economic
Analysis of the Constitutional Amendment Process, Fordham L. Rev. Vol., 62, Pp. 111-
162, p. 111.
3 Tom Ginsburg (2011), “Constitutional endurance” in Tom Ginsburg and Rosalind Dixon,
eds., Comparative Constitutional Law, Edward Elgar Publishing, p. 112.
6 John Hatchard, Muna Ndulo, Peter Slinn (2004), Comparative Constitutionalism and Good
governance in the Commonwealth: An Eastern and Southern African Perspective,
Cambridge University Press, New York, pp. 44-45.
8 Rosalind Dixon (2011), “Constitutional Amendment Rules: A Comparative Perspective” in
Tom Ginsburg and Rosalind Dixon, eds ., Comparative Constitutional Law, Edward Elgar
Publishing, p 96.
10 Bjørn Erik Rasch, (2008), Foundations of Constitutional Stability: Veto Points, Qualified
Majorities, and Agenda-Setting Rules in Amendment Procedures, A Paper presented at the
ECPR Joint Sessions of Workshops Rennes, France, April 11-16, 2008 pp. 3-
4[Hereinafter called, Bjørn Erik Rasch, Foundations of Constitutional Stability].