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Selected Developments in Comparative Constitutional Law: April 2024 Round-Up

April 12, 2024

North America

In the United States, the presidential race is currently in full swing, although the primary elections that selected the two major-party candidates who will vie for the US presidency on November 5, 2024, have reached an early resolution. Nevertheless, tension has been mounting as the Republican Party’s likely candidate, Donald Trump, faces criminal charges stemming from his efforts to overturn the outcome of the 2020 election—actions which also resulted in his second impeachment. April 25, 2024, marks a significant date as the US Supreme Court is slated to hear oral arguments on Donald Trump’s claim of presidential immunity in federal proceedings. Another significant decision rendered by the Supreme Court in March 2024 ensures Trump’s right to participate in the election by prohibiting federated states from disqualifying candidates for federal office based on a constitutional provision related to previous participation in an insurrection. These legal battles carry profound implications, with increasing speculation about Trump’s potential actions if he secures a return to the presidency, including addressing ongoing prosecutions or the possibility of self-pardon for federal crimes.

South America

Chile’s quest for a new constitution faced yet another setback on December 17, 2023, as a constitutional referendum fell short of approving the revised document proposed in October 2023 by the Constitutional Council. This development echoes a prior (failed) attempt made on September 4, 2022, when a national plebiscite was held with respect to an alternate draft of a Political Constitution of the Republic, crafted earlier that year by a constitutional convention. These setbacks underscore the challenges in replacing the current 1980 Constitution, which was promulgated under Pinochet’s military regime and remains in place after having undergone major amendments in 2005. 

In Ecuador, the ongoing security crisis prompted President Noboa to declare a state of emergency in January 2024. Subsequently, he identified 22 criminal bands as terrorist groups. In February, the Constitutional Court of Ecuador finally approved 10 out of 20 questions proposed by the President for a popular consultation and referendum. These questions cover various topics, including an increased role for the armed forces, tougher penalties for different crimes, prisoner sentencing, regulation of the possession and use of firearms, the utilization of assets with illicit origins by the state, extradition laws, and the establishment of a specialized judiciary for constitutional matters. 


In 2023, Israel faced an unprecedented constitutional crisis when the Parliament passed Amendment No 3 to the Basic Law: the Judiciary. This was intended to prevent the Supreme Court of Israel (Beit HaMishpat HaElyon) from scrutinizing and invalidating government decisions and appointments on the ground of being ‘unreasonable’—as it had done in January 2023 by opposing the appointment of a minister in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s cabinet owing to his criminal convictions. In January 2024, however, the proposed amendment was struck down by the full bench of the Supreme Court with a narrow minority, based on the argument that it would have done ‘the most severe harm possible to the principle of the separation of powers and the principle of the rule of law’. 


In March 2024, France achieved a historic milestone by becoming the first country in the world to explicitly recognize the right to abortion within its constitution. Article 34 of the French Constitution now explicitly states that ‘the law determines the conditions in which a woman has the guaranteed freedom to have recourse to an abortion’.


In October 2023, Australians voted against a proposed constitutional reform, known as the ‘Voice’ referendum, aimed at incorporating a mechanism into the constitution to enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to offer advice to parliament on policies impacting their lives. The referendum sought to establish a board comprising Indigenous individuals tasked with advising the federal government on matters concerning their communities, with the aim of strengthening the rights of indigenous populations and the protection of ethnic minorities.

MPECCoL articles cross-referenced in this round-up (these articles will be freely available until 14 July 2024):

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