Constitutional Reform in Times of Transition

This e-book from the Arab Reform Initiative features ten essays addressing the challenges of constitutional reform during times of political transition. Featuring insightful analysis of Arab and non-Arab transitions, the essays address both the transformational process of constitution building and the difficult questions of constitutional design:  How can a constitution, and the process for developing it, affect efforts to accommodate the interests of different groups in diverse states? How easy should it be to change a constitution? How comprehensive should it be in addressing economic and social issues? Can a constitution resolve problems of civil-military relations?

These questions and more are addressed in essays from an esteemed group of intellectuals with wide experience both in government, as parliamentarians, ministers or senior bureaucrats, and out of government, as academics, activists and public intellectuals. The book draws lessons for constitutional development from experiences in nations with diverse social, political and cultural histories: from Latin America to Southern Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Countries that used to be under military control, such as Brazil, Spain and Portugal, have developed robust democratic systems. Has Tunisia’s recent constitutional process put them on a similar democratic path? Has Egypt’s process pushed them off that path? Can Bosnia’s experience with constitution-building after civil war be relevant for Syria? As each democratic transition is unique, studying multiple cases can shed light from multiple angles on the challenges of building a new constitutional order.

The drafting of a constitution mobilizes political, social, economic and security actors. The resulting document will lay the foundations for governing relations between social, ethnic, religious, cultural and regional communities, between men and women, and between social classes and interest groups. But a constitution is only step one in a democratic transition. In the aftermath of the drafting process, societies discover that the constitution is only one body of laws which, though essential for framing key issues and defining a path, is a mere first step.


1) The Making of the Indian Constitution
by Radha Kumar

2) Local and Regional Governance in the Portuguese Constitution:
A Case Study in Democratic Transition
by Eduardo Cabrita

3) Constitutional Reform and Civil-Military Relations in Spain
by Narcis Serra

4) Brazil: The Constitution-Making Process and the Political System
by Pedro Dallari

5) Constitutional Reform Processes in Latin America: Key Issues of Comparative Interest
by Alexandra Barahona de Brito

6) Constitutional Reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina
by Denisa Sarajlic-Maglic

7) Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the New Tunisian Constitution
by Azzam Mahjoub and Salwa Hamrouni

8) The Egyptian Constitution: Procedural Problems and a Crisis of Content
by Amr el-Shobaki

9) Writing the Constitution of the Egyptian Revolution:
Between Social Contract and Political Contracting
by Yasmine Farouk

10) Constitutional Reform: The Case of Syria
by Nael Georges

The views represented in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arab Reform Initiative, its staff, or its board.