By Maria Fernanda Tamayo Poltronieri - International Relations Student

A Political Constitution is a social contract by which all Costa Rican citizens, in this case, are governed and each of the country's citizens should adhere to these laws. The Constitution sets the limits and defines the relations between the powers of the State and the citizens, establishing the bases for their government and the organization of their institutions. Costa Rica’s constitution was approved and written in 1949 after the last civil war. More than 70 years later, the discussion of a new modernized constitution comes to the table. The 1940s Costa Rica's society the constitution was built upon is definitely different to our current generation. Some argue that rewriting our founding documents could be the biggest threat to democracy as we know it, others differ and demand amendments that will require reworking a constitution. Is it necessary to modernize the constitution by rewriting it in this politically polarized era?
It has been subjected to several reforms, the last being Law No. 9305 of 2015, which recognized the multi-ethnic and multicultural character of the country. Articles 195 and 196 regulate the partial or general reform of the constitutional text. A partial reform requires a proposal presented to the Legislative Assembly in ordinary sessions, signed by at least ten deputies or by at least five percent. (FAO, 2021). Its current structure consists of 18 titles: I) La República; II) Los costarricenses; III) Los extranjeros; IV) Derechos y garantías individuales; V) Derechos y garantías sociales; VI) La religión; VII) La educación y la cultura; VIII) Derechos y deberes políticos; IX) El Poder Legislativo; X) El Poder Ejecutivo; XI) El Poder Judicial; XII) El régimen municipal; XIII) La Hacienda Pública; XIV) Las instituciones públicas; XV) El Servicio Civil; XVI) El juramento constitucional; XVII) Las reformas de la Constitución; XVIII) Disposiciones finales. Disposiciones transitorias. (Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones, 2015). Reform information is included in the notes of each reformed article or law inside the constitution.
It's no secret that change and transformation are most definitely necessary for Costa Rica at the present moment. Many argue that the current constitution does not represent the 21st century Costa Rican society. For example, Costa Rica is the only country in America that its constitution establishes christianism as the official religion of the country. Which implies the current constitution blocks new laws that reflects the society’s current needs from being approved; for example, abortion and gender identity laws go against the constitution values. The fact that we are constantly in need to create reforms in relation to topics like human rights, such was the case with same-sex marriage, means the constitution is outdated in some aspects.
It could also be dangerous for a democracy to create a totally new constitution that could potentially have some repercussions or be a danger to the already established powers. Experts from the region have suggested that: “Rewriting our founding documents is an irresponsible and unwise idea in an era of extreme political polarization, in which the very richest among us wield the kind political power the nation’s founders warned against” (Holbert, 2017). They call upon citizens to hold back the reckless movement to re-write the constitution.
The Political Constitution of Costa Rica seems to work optimally and although it is true that it has some legal ambiguities or certain flaws, it is nothing that cannot be fixed in the legislative assembly. Taking into account the expert’s opinion, the constitution should be edited and reviewed from time to time.

 

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References:
FAO. (2021). Constitución Política de la República de Costa Rica. fao.org/faolex/results/details/en/c/LEX-FAOC127451/
Holbert, K. (2017). The most dangerous idea in American politics. The Pittsburgh Post. https://www.post-gazette.com/opinion/Op-Ed/2017/11/19/Penn-syl-va-nia-help-roll-back-the-reck-less-move-ment-to-re-write-the-Con-sti-tu-tion/stories/201711190028
Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones. (2015). Constitución Política de Costa Rica y sus Reformas. https://www.tse.go.cr/pdf/normativa/constitucion.pdf