Regional experts debate constitution making in Mediterranean basin

Regional experts debate constitution making in Mediterranean basin

The “Constitutional Processes in the Mediterranean Basin” conference at Marmara University brought together experts from Europe and the Middle East to share their experiences in the process of drafting constitutions. (Photo: Today's Zaman)

April 27, 2012, Friday/ 16:39:00/ YONCA POYRAZ DOĞAN

Experts from Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Spain, Italy, France and Turkey have shared their experiences in the process of Constitution making amid developments in light of the Arab spring and the financial crisis in Europe.

“Compromises have been sought between the desires of the public and requirements of the state of law,” said Professor Bertrand Mathieu of Sorbonne university in Paris, who is also a member of the High Council of Judges.

“It is not possible to copy and paste an existing model. There are varying facts in each society,” he said on Friday, making an opening speech at Marmara University for the conference “Constitutional Processes in the Mediterranean Basin,” which was organized by the Association of Constitutional Law Research in Turkey, the French Association of Constitutional Law and the Tunisian Association of Constitutional Law.

As common processes have been explored in the experiences of the Mediterranean countries in constitution making, the Arab Spring has left its mark on almost all debates.

“It is interesting to note that there is a constitution-making process in Turkey at the same that the countries of the Arab Spring have been trying to make their own constitutions,” said Emin Arat, who represented the rector of Marmara University at the conference.

Professor İbrahim Kaboğlu, who was one of the main organizers of the conference, said that it is essential not to have a reversal in the constitution-making processes of the countries of the Mediterranean basin.

“There should be no reversals in regards to human rights issues. Gains that have been obtained cannot be lost. We should think about how we can carry our constitutions forward,” he said.

In regards to debates on constitution making in Turkey, Kaboğlu added that an understanding of democracy of the majority is not helpful.

“Currently, the debate about majoritarian democracy has been stressed as opposed to a pluralist democracy,” he added. “There is also no stress on secularism, which is a way to guarantee religious freedoms.”

Moderating a panel of experts from Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, Professor Rıza Türmen, who is a lawmaker from the opposition Republican People's party (CHP), agreed with the view that majority rule would be harmful for societies.

“It would lead to dictatorships,” he said.

Speaking about the experience in Tunisia where events sparked uprisings in the other countries of the region, starting with the Arab Spring, Professor Yadh Ben Achour of Qartaj University, who is also the president of the Authority to Achieve the Revolution's Goals, said political institutions have collapsed in Tunisia, and there is now a process to make a new constitution.

“The process is still ongoing, and there have been some reversals in regards to the past gains, but there are hopes as well,” he said.

He also remarked that the victorious Ennahda Party in the elections on Oct. 23 last year has declared that it has no desires for a theocratic state.

“The Ennahda Party's model is Turkey's AKP [ruling Justice and Development Party], which is moderately Islamic, predominantly consists of Muslims and is secular,” he said.

The conference continued with panels that also featured members of Turkey's parliamentary constitutional compromise commission from each party represented in Parliament. The deputies expressed their views of the constitution-making process in a panel called, “Difficulties and Progress in the Process of Renewing the 1982 constitution of Turkey.”

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