A weekly section that covers updates on constitutional design and key constitution-related news in the Muslim World
Week of October 7, 2013
Libya’s High Election Commission announced on October 3 that candidate registration for the election of the country’s constituent assembly – the body responsible for drafting the country’s new permanent constitution – will take place from October 6 to 22 (click here for the announcement in Arabic).
Libya’s High Election Commission had passed the constituent assembly’s election law on July 16, 2013, after significant delays and controversies, especially on the issues of ethnic and minority representation in the committee. The March 13, 2012 amendment to Libya’s Constitutional Declaration allocates 20 seats to each of Libya’s historic provinces: Burqa, Tripoli and Fezan. The law reserves six seats for women and six seats for “cultural and linguistic components” of Libyan society (Tebu, Touareg, and Amazigh).
As per the amended Libyan Constitutional Declaration, the constituent assembly will have 120 days from the date of its first meeting to complete a draft of the constitution, which then has to be submitted to a public referendum within 30 days. The Declaration requires a two-third majority vote in that referendum for the draft constitution to be adopted.
The Constitutional Court of Jordan rejected on October 3 a petition challenging the constitutionality of 2012 Elections Law. The court’s spokesman, Judge Ahmad Tbeishat, said the petition was rejected on procedural grounds, citing failure of the plaintiffs to pay the required court fees.
A number of opposition parties, including the Islamic Action Front Party (the political wing of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood), the People’s Democratic Party, Jordan’s Socialist Party, and the Arab Progressive Baathist Party, contested the constitutionality of the law. The petition alleged that the law violated constitutional provisions that guarantee equality of citizens (Article 6) and direct elections of the House of Representatives (Article 67). These parties also boycotted the country’s parliamentary elections of January 23, 2013, in protest of the new law.
The Elections Law of 2012 was passed as part of a package of reforms introduced by Jordan’s King Abdullah following the events of the Arab Spring. It increases the number of seats in the House of Representative (lower house of parliament) from 120 to 150 and a mixed electoral system where each eligible citizen votes in two separate ballots: one for individual candidates at the local district level, and one for a national party list. Only 27 seats (18%) are selected through the party list system. Opposition parties, on the other hand, advocate a mixed electoral system that would allocate 50% of the seats to national party lists. They also oppose the one-man one-vote rule at the district level, which they argue has produced successive tribal-dominated parliaments at the expense of political parties. In addition, the law increases the women’s quota from 13 to 15, adding 2 seats for women in tribal areas, and permits members of the security forces to vote in parliamentary elections.– both of which are amendments that the opposition contends skew the results more in favor of tribal and government-loyalist forces.
Notwithstanding the outcome of the constitutional challenge, there seem to be efforts to contain the political tensions through a negotiated solution. On October 2, Jordan’s Minister of Political and Parliamentary Affairs affirmed that the government intends to revise the law “through dialogue with the popular forces and activists.”
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced his long-awaited democratization package on September 30. The 21-point reform declaration, seen as designed mainly to salvage the peace process with Kurdish insurgents, provides for expanded cultural and linguistic right for Turkey’s Kurdish minority and includes a promise to enhance Kurdish parliament representation by reducing the minimum threshold of votes required for a political party to secure representation in parliament. A threshold of 10% of the national vote is now required for a political party to enter parliament, which has largely kept out Kurdish groupings and has been a key grievance of Turkey’s Kurds. Erdogan also announced that the reforms would permit women in civil service to wear the Islamic headscarf. The reforms, however, were criticized for falling short of expectations and failing to address the demands of Alewites (Alevis) and non-Muslim communities in Turkey.
The next day, the Speaker of the Turkish Parliament announced that the 17-month long efforts of the parliamentary Constitutional Reconciliation Commission to write a new constitution have not been successful, citing failure to reach “societal consensus.” According to Erdogan, however, none of his currently proposed reforms require amendment to the constitution.
By Salma Waheedi, Juris Doctor Candidate (2014), Northwestern University School of Law