On 26 June 2012, Cecelia Goetz Professor of Law Sujit Choudhry, Faculty Director of Constitutional Transitions, and researchers Christopher Roberts and Amos Toh, participated in a seminar to review the “Analysis and Recommendations Study of the 2011 Jordanian Constitution”, authored by Jordanian lawyer Sufian Obeidat and sponsored by International IDEA. The seminar took place in Beirut, Lebanon. The study provided an overview of the history of the Jordanian constitutional system and recent amendments in the context of the Arab Spring, and made recommendations as to avenues for further democratic reform. The seminar was divided into four sessions, examining the Arab Spring’s aspirations, fundamental rights, transparency, corruption, oversight and good governance, and the vertical distribution of powers, including the judicial sector. Professor Choudhry, along with Ayman Ayoub, Zaid Al-Ali and Winluck Wahiu of International IDEA, moderated the discussions.
Over the course of the discussions, a number of key points were made. In the Arab Spring session, participants stressed the need to separate technical legal issues from structural obstacles to democratic reform in Jordan, such as the need to reform the electoral law and political party system. The importance of laying out a transitional roadmap, as well as ultimate goals, were also stressed.
In the session on fundamental rights, participants emphasized the importance not merely of rights clauses alone, but of effective mechanisms to enforce those rights. They observed that the amendments to the rights section of the Constitution did not appear to have added much new substantive content, and may in some areas have weakened individual rights. They observed in particular the absence of proper protections of gender equality. They also stressed the lack of clarity relative to potential limitations.
In the panel on transparency, corruption, oversight and good governance, panelists emphasized the need to get the balance of powers right, and to think clearly and carefully about what sort of party system is sought. Participants also noted the contested citizenship issue in Jordan, given the large portion of the population originating from the West Bank area, and how this plays into the politics of reform. The panelists also noted the problem of entrenched, high-level corruption in Jordan.
During the closing panel on the vertical distribution of powers, including the judicial sector, the issue of how Jordan’s new constitutional court will function was discussed. Panelists were uncertain whether this court would serve as a genuine vehicle of reform, or a means to protect elite interests. They emphasized the need for ready access to constitutional review procedures, and the importance of appointment procedures. Panelists also discussed the relationship of the constitutional court to shariah law.
A final version of the study, building on discussions at the seminar, will be produced by Sufian Obeidat in the coming months. Publication of the study by IDEA is expected later in the year.
Date and Time
June 26, 2012.
Sujit Choudhry, Cecelia Goetz Professor of Law and Faculty Director of Constitutional Transitions at NYU School of Law.
Ayman Ayoub, International IDEA.
Zaid Al-Ali, International IDEA.
Winluck Wahiu, International IDEA.