Event Reports

Constitution et contre-pouvoirs

counterpowers of civil society in political systems

In cooperation with the University of Carthage, the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung holds a conference titled "Constitution et contre-pouvoirs".

“Constant experience shows us that every man invested with power is apt to abuse it, and to carry his authority as far as it will go.” Montesquieus aphorism, took up by Prof. Lotfy Chedly, dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Carthage, brings up a significant question for democracy: How to control and to balance political power? The conference held up by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (Tunis office and the regional Rule of Law program based in Beirut) dedicated to “Counter- powers” (contre-pouvoirs) in democratic political systems. The Conference, organized in cooperation with the Research Unit on International Law, International Jurisprudence and Comparative Constitutional Law (URDIJIDCC) took place in Tunis February 19 – February 20, 2015.

Peter Rimmele Head of the Rule of Law Program Middle East/North Africa and Resident Representative of Lebanon illustrated during his opening remarks the high relevance of the question concerning organization, distribution as well as control of political power for Tunisia. Followed by democratic elections, the adoption of Tunisias new constitution has taken place in 2014. Nevertheless the task now is to strengthen the implementation of usual principles of the rule of law like the separation of power in the constitutional practice. Mr. Rimmele declared, that the Konrad- Stiftung will continue to accompany the Arab region in general and Tunisia in particular on their constitutional processes. After that, Dr. Hajer Gueldich, coordinator of the new research tool welcomed around 100 from the domains of policy, science and society.

After Wafa Zaafrane Ladolsi had given an overview of the current status of research, Prof. Slobodan Milacic classified the concept of counter powers as a liberal paradigm. According to the constitutional lawyer, the principle of competition expanded from the economic into the political sector. The state only plays a regulative role in this system; it mainly has to ensure and to organize the competition of the several political powers. In this context, it is necessary to find continuously a proper balance between freedom and equality. Emira Chaouch emphasized in her memo the complexity of the contemporary search for such a balance. The lecturer in the field of law and doctoral student at the University of Carthage referred here, to several democratic concepts to point out the multiplication of actors that are involved in the decision-making process. Prof. Rainer Arnold from the University of Regensburg followed examples from Germany to examine that the constitution for itself makes a contribution to the system of counter balances.

After various theoretical explanations, the second part of the event focused on several concrete forms and functions of counter- powers in Tunisia and other North African states. Two early-stage researchers and members of the new research tool dedicated to the future Tunisian constitutional council as well as to independent constitutional institutions. These Institutions, established in the new constitution, are still in progress. Also from the University of Carthage Dr. Mouna Kraiem examined how the Tunisian and Moroccan constitutional reforms in 2011 and 2014 strengthened the rights and the role of the opposition.

In addition to the classical constitutional actors the participants of the conference examined as well the “non-institutionalized” counter-powers. Following examples from sub-Saharan – Africa, Dr.Patrick Lessene (African Innovation Foundation, Genf) emphasized the essential significance of civil society for the control of the government. The Tunisian political scientist prof. Hatem M’rad used Tunisia and Egypt as case studies for showing the "repoliticization" of the Arab people and the renewed power of the “Arab street”.

In a final thesis prof. Rafaa Ben Achour stated that Jurisprudence and neighboring disciplines have only recently paid attention to the concept of counter-powers, The head of the Research Unit on International Law, International Jurisprudence and Comparative Constitutional Law was thus more than delighted for the quality of the conference contributions. Referring to their contents, Mr. Ben Achour emphasized that counter-powers not necessarily operate against state and governmental structure. In the best case counter-powers can also represent a constructive replenishment to governmental power.