The Practice of Informal Changes to the Ethiopian Constitution in the Course of Application
AbstractGiven the generality of a constitution, it requires amendments in order to enable it to cope up with the socio-economic and political dynamics. As a result, formal constitutional amendment procedures have remained vital mechanisms in this regard. However, the rigidity of formal constitutional amendment procedures and/or the political context of a country have often kept constitutions static and frequently induce politicians to look for alternatives. Informal constitutional amendment mechanisms are thus designed in response to the difficulty of formally amending the constitution. In this sense, the role of non-constitutional mechanisms in the alteration of a constitution is essential. The FDRE Constitution encompasses a constitutional provision that spells out how the Constitution can be amended. However, there has not yet been a single formal constitutional amendment. This article examines instances of actual but unwritten constitutional changes in the course of application that have been occurring in Ethiopia for which formal constitutional amendment cannot account for. These include constitutional changes through constitutional interpretation, or by legislation. The article contends that there are time-honoured practices that regulate and continue to guide the course of the Ethiopian federal state in contradiction to the Constitution. Equally important, party structure also influences the federal distribution of power.Key termsFDRE Constitution, informal constitutional changes, constitutional amendment, constitutional interpretation, political custom, law enforcement, Ethiopia.