News & Updates

Constitution-Making, Electoral Design, and the Arab Spring


Thursday, March 29, 2012

In December 2010, a Tunisian fruit vendor burned himself to death to protest his treatment by police, marking the start of what has become widely known as the “Arab Spring.” Mass popular protests spread throughout most of the region, and a little more than a year later violent conflict is still raging in Syria and Yemen. In Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, however, dictators have fallen, and these countries are currently engaged in the struggle to achieve successful transitions to democracy. Among the most difficult challenges that they face are those of drafting and approving new constitutions and of designing electoral systems that will foster both fairness and stability. Getting their new constitutions and electoral systems right will be of crucial importance to their efforts to build functioning and enduring democracies.

Andrew Reynolds and John Carey assessed the various paths chosen by these would-be democratizers, drawing upon and updating their co-authored articles in the October 2011 and January 2012 issues of the Journal of Democracy. Donald L. Horowitz provided comments.

About the Speakers

Andrew Reynolds is associate professor of political science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where his research focuses on democratization, constitutional design, and electoral politics. He has advised a number of organizations including the UN, NDI, and the State Department. He is currently writing (with Jason Brownlee and Tarek Masoud) The Arab Spring: The Politics of Transformation in North Africa and the Middle East (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012).

John Carey is the Wentworth Professor in the Social Sciences and the chair of the government department at Dartmouth College. He is co-editor of the Legislative Studies Quarterly, and his most recent book is Legislative Voting & Accountability (Cambridge University Press, 2009).

Donald Horowitz, the James B. Duke Professor of Law and Political Science at Duke University, is currently a Jennings Randolph Senior Fellow at the U.S. Institute for Peace, where he is completing a project on “Constitutional Design for Severely Divided Societies.”