What Are the Fundamental Characteristics of a Constitutional Government?

Popular sovereignty, majority rule while respecting minority rights, checked governmental powers through limitations, due process of the law and leadership succession through popular consensus are the main characteristics of a constitutional democracy, according to the Center for Civic Education. These characteristics are formalized in a written or verbal constitution.

A constitution is any body of fundamental principles and established precedents used to govern a state or organization. Popular sovereignty is achieved when the people of the state are the ultimate source of governmental authority, wherein the government of a constitutional democracy governs the people only with their consent. A constitutional democracy fosters minorities’ fundamental rights while guaranteeing that the majority has the right to rule.

Limiting the powers of government according to a written or unwritten constitution is important because it ensures that the people are self-governing. These powers are limited by separating them among different governmental agencies and giving these agencies the right to check other organizations. Due process of the law guarantees fundamental human rights to life, liberty and property to the people when contested in court. Elections are periodically conducted to guarantee that key governmental positions are contested to give citizens a chance to pick their leaders.