Publication

“Semi-Presidentialism as Power-Sharing: Lessons for the Middle East and North Africa”, The Center for Constitutional Transitions at NYU Law & International IDEA Reports: Constitutional Design in the Middle East and North Africa (with R. Stacey) (2014) (also translated into Arabic).

Abstract

The political history of many of the countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region over the last 60 years has been one of strong presidents and weak legislatures. The democratic revolutions of the Arab Spring created the opportunity to reconstitute the political system in a way that marks a fundamental break from the dictatorships of the recent past. This report assesses the contribution that the semi-presidential form of government can make to preventing the re-emergence of presidential dictatorship and consolidating democracy in the MENA region. The failure of the constitutional systems in place before the Arab Spring can be attributed to a combination of three factors. First, presidential power was largely unlimited. Second, the system of government did not allow the legislature to act as an effective check on presidential power. Third, many pre-Arab Spring countries were single-party states, in which much of the bureaucracy and many state institutions were dominated by the president’s political allies and supporters. Semi-presidential government, if carefully designed, can act as a mechanism to ensure that presidential dictatorship does not re-emerge. The design of such a system must be guided by three principles that respond directly to the constitutional failures in the MENA region: (1) limited presidential power, (2) an effective legislature that is capable of exercising oversight of the president and the government and (3) effective and meaningful power sharing between the prime minister and the president. The report applies these principles to the design of a semi-presidential system for the post-Arab Spring MENA region