In March 2012, Constitutional Transitions held a symposium on the constitutional reformation of the Middle East and North Africa region in the wake of the Arab Spring. The papers presented at the symposium are collected in this special edition of the International Journal of Constitutional Law (I•CON), with an introduction by the Constitutional Transitions Faculty Director Sujit Choudhry. The special issue also includes contributions by Clark Lombardi, Mohammad Fadel, Asli Bâli, Turkuler Isiksel, and Ozan Varol. More information on the symposium is available here. The symposium papers are available for download here with a subscription or paid access.
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is witnessing the greatest degree of political transformation and regime change in a generation. The causes of these revolutions are rooted in corruption, a lack of economic opportunity, and most fundamentally, authoritarianism. What is striking is that constitutional transitions of various forms, albeit whose trajectory is yet unclear, have accompanied regime change in every case—in Tunisia, Libya, and Yemen. New constitutional beginnings are demanded not only as a necessary means to break from a discredited past; they are viewed, perhaps unrealistically, as being necessary for achieving progress in economic and social reform. Indeed, equating constitutional reform with progress has become so commonplace that two non-transitioning states, Morocco and Jordan, have enacted a set of comprehensive constitutional amendments to preempt popular uprisings. The trajectory in Egypt remains unclear and volatile.
Conversely, it is feared that erring in constitutional design will condemn the region to repeat the mistakes of the past, and may open the door to the establishment of Islamic states that may be authoritarian under a new guise, and which could have little respect for human rights, religious minorities or the rule of law. Debates over constitutional design are now at the very heart of political life.
These momentous events mark the occasion for this I•CON Symposium, “Constitutional Transitions in the Middle East.” The discipline of comparative constitutional law has neglected this region almost entirely, on the assumption that constitutionalism and the rule of law mattered little under authoritarian rule.
The papers collected here are intended to bring the focus on comparative constitutional law to the MENA region, and Constitutional Transitions is proud to have contributed to these efforts.
The I•CON special issue is available here.
Symposium: Constitutional Transitions in the Middle East
(30 March 2012)