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Creating and Sustaining Democracy in the Middle East: Constitution and Governance Building

From Tunisia to Egypt to Yemen and beyond, momentum toward creating democratic governments has reached unprecedented levels in the Arab world. As demand for regime change spreads, architects and leaders of these aspiring new democracies will face a host of pressing governance and constitutional challenges and questions. What are the key constitutional considerations? Which governance principles would best build and sustain democracy in Middle Eastern countries making the transition? How do the experiences of other fledgling democracies – including the 18th century United States – inform our present-day understanding?

On May 2, Brookings hosted a forum on the numerous constitutional and governance issues facing transitioning countries in the Middle East. Brookings Senior Fellow Thomas Mann moderated a discussion featuring Donald L. Horowitz of Duke University, and three Brookings senior fellows: William Galston and Pietro Nivola of Governance Studies and Daniel Kaufmann of Global Economy and Development. Horowitz reported on constitutional prospects for post-revolutionary Egypt and Tunisia. Galston and Nivola discussed key constitutional considerations including majority rule vs. minority rights, the place of religion in the state, parliamentary and presidential systems of government formation and policy making, and federalism. Drawing from data and experiences around the globe, Kaufmann suggested how the core dimensions of governance embodied in the Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) can offer useful guidance to prospective and new democratic regimes in the region.

After the program, panelists took audience questions.

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