AUTHORITATIVE INTERPRETATION OF THE CONSTITUTION:
A Comparison of Argumentation in Finland and Norway

Veli-Pekka Hautamäki (University of Vaasa)

This is a comparative study of authoritative interpretation of the Constitution in Finland and Norway, that is, of the Basic Law in these countries. An 'authoritative interpretation' is an interpretation that is relatively undisputed. Many countries have a constitutional court that normally provides the most authoritative interpretation of the Constitution. In countries with no constitutional court, some other institution has the role of providing the most authoritative interpretation of the Constitution. The position of authoritative interpreting body can be based - depending on the country - on written rules, on customary law or on constitutional conventions.

The Parliament's constitutional committee (Perustuslakivaliokunta) is the most authoritative interpreting body of the Constitution (Perustuslaki) in Finland as in Norway the Supreme Court (Høyesterett) is the most authoritative interpreting body of the Grunnlov. Grammatical and historical arguments are not frequently used by the Høyesterett, while the Perustuslakivaliokunta regularly uses both grammatical and historical arguments. Systematic (including doctrinal) arguments are very important types of argument for both bodies. In the Perustuslakivaliokunta's practice, the use of doctrinal arguments is perhaps even more explicit. The most characteristic type of argument in the Høyesterett's argumentation is the teleological argument; the Perustuslakivaliokunta lays more stress on the juridical nature of the interpretation than the Høyesterett does.

The Høyesterett and the Perustuslakivaliokunta have the same kind of function as the most authoritative interpreting body of the Constitution in their countries. As they are, however, different types of bodies with different basic tasks, it is clear that they may find different alternatives for solving problems concerning the interpretation of the Constitution.

Cite as: Veli-Pekka Hautamäki, Authoritative Interpretation of the Constitution: A Comparison of Argumentation in Finland and Norway, vol 6.3 ELECTRONIC JOURNAL OF COMPARATIVE LAW, (October 2002), <http://www.ejcl.org/63/art63-1.html>.

Contents
Introduction
1. Authority and the interpretation of the Constitution
2. Argumentation and types of argument
3. Is interpretation of the Constitution something special in relation to other laws?
4. Who are the authoritative interpreters of the Constitution in Finland?
5. Who are the authoritative interpreters of the Constitution in Norway?
6. Some examples of the argumentation of the Perustuslakivaliokunta and the Høyesterett
7. Conclusions
Notes

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