Tunisia: The Collective Making of a Constitution

Academic Paper / Article

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June 10, 2014

Tunisia: The Collective Making of a Constitution

Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly (NCA) session held on 26 January 2014 did not put an end to disagreements among its members. However, it did represent the culmination of the work done by members. These members were elected by people on 23 October 2011 to draft the provisions of the Constitution of the Tunisian Republic. The draft was ratified during the January session. The ratification of the constitution has thus pushed quarrels and political conflicts among assembly members from center stage to the margins.

Before the NCA had begun its work, politicians promised to complete the drafting process in one year. However, drafting the 149 articles of the constitution took two whole years. The extra time taken undermined public trust in the constituent institution, which was a top demand of the revolution.

Indeed, in the early days of the revolution, the NCA was raised as a slogan by protesters in Kasbah Square as a symbolic reenactment of the experience of drafting the country’s independence constitution. Before its completion, the recently ratified constitution was the object of criticism by those who argued it would undermine the gains of modernism on the one hand, and those who felt it will do away with the cultural particularities of Tunisian society on the other. Yet, its provisions lay the foundations for rights and liberties in a manner that would reconcile the demands of both camps within its framework.

However, Tunisia’s success at drafting a new constitution -despite its democratic experience being a recent one- is exemplified by the manner in which this constitution was drafted, including the diversity of those who participated in the drafting process. In fact, the drafting process may well be the most important feature of the constitution, possibly more so than its content. 

Resource type: 
Publisher: 
Jadaliyya
Publication year: 
2014