Constitutional transitions in the Middle East: Introduction

“Constitutional transitions in the Middle East: Introduction” (2013) 11 International Journal of Constitutional Law 611-614.

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The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is witnessing the greatest degree of political transformation and regime change in a generation—the Arab Awakening. 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 have accompanied regime change in every case—in Tunisia, Egypt, 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. 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.