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"Can Constitutionalism help Palestine?"

Better than other Arab countries but failed due to Hamas-Fatah-rivalry – this was the summary of Professor Nathan Brown for Constitutionalism in Palestine. On July 17th 2008 the lecture “Can Constitutionalism help Palestine?” took place in the framework of the lecture series “Legal Encounter” an initiative of the Institute of Law (IoL) at Birzeit University and the Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) in Ramallah. Guest speaker was Nathan Brown, professor of Political Science and International Affairs at Georgetown University.

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Professor Brown defined constitutions as declarations of fundamental values and as a fundamental legal document. He stated that constitutions work best when they are agreements of equal effective parties. Professor Brown gave a short review over the Palestinian experience with constitutionalism. The Basic Law, a type of interim constitution, was ratified by the Palestinian Legislative Council in 1997 and finally signed by the Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat in 2002.

Furthermore Professor Brown argued that the Basic Law was better designed than other constitutions in Arabic countries due to the fact that it was an agreement of different parties like the Fatah, the Presidency and the Palestinian Civil Society-. The opinions of Hamas were not included during the negotiations on the Basic Law due to the fact that they were out of the political picture at that time.

For Professor Brown the Palestinian Constitution broke down completely after the election of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in 2006 in which Hamas won the majority of votes. He claimed a deep failure of the Palestinian constitution because nowadays there is a government in Gaza with a kind of constitutional legitimacy and a Fatah interim government in the West Bank. The speaker was pessimistic regarding the question “Can Constitutionalism help Palestine”. The current situation, with a Hamas government in the Gaza Strip and a Fatah government in the West Bank, has to be overcome.

The Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung supports the evolution of legal structures and the rule of law in the Palestinian Autonomous Territories in cooperation with the Institute of Law at Birzeit University. The lecture was held as part of the “Legal Encounter” series, which is organized by the Institute of Law and KAS.

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