“Democracy is a Constant Struggle”
“Democracy is a Constant Struggle”
Euro-Mediterranean Association For Co...
The Euro-Mediterranean Association for Cooperation and Development (EMA) presents an interview with Professor Ferhat Horchani, Faculty of Law and Political Science in Tunis, and member of the Tunisian Constitutional and Electoral Commission.
EMA: Professor Horchani, Tunisia went to the polls in October with an impressively high turnout of voters. In your opinion, what influence will this phenomenon have on the development of a constitution?
Ferhat Horchani: The influence will be enormous: As a start, the election itself went very well. This is very important as it cannot be taken for granted given the experiences other African and Asian and even European countries have had. We can say that the first steps of Tunisian democracy are crowned with success. We now have to hope for the same turnout of voters in the numerous coming elections – parliamentary, communal and regional elections. The election has definitely shown that the people are interested in the constitutional process, even though many brought in their protest demands such as social justice and the improvement of the economic conditions.
EMA: In Germany, the election result sparked a lively debate about Tunisia’s liberal future. To what extent will the result influence the constitutional process?
Horchani: I do not at all think that Tunisia’s liberal future is at risk. The reasons for this are manifold: First of all, the recent achievements are anchored strongly in civil society and society as a whole. Comparisons with the turnovers in other countries do not apply here. Tunisia has very specific characteristics. The developments in the areas of individual freedoms and equality between men and women are irreversible.
Second, all parties – also the Islamist Party – will continue along the democratic path because they do not have any other choice. Even if another party says or acts differently, they represent the minority and are absolutely incapable of action. Democracy will dissolve them with time – like it happened in Europe with extremist parties or movements.
Finally, Tunisia does not possess noteworthy amounts of natural resources and is not situated far from Europe – which is a very important factor for the protection of its achievements and the development path to embark on.
From this, we have to be careful and incorporate recent legal achievements into the constitution while at the same time preserving the Arab and Muslim identity, which must not be mistaken for political Islam. Everything else is an everyday dispute, like it also occurs in your country. Democracy is a constant struggle, because it does not only mean to change a political practice, but rather to search for cultural answers and because it requires a whole new mentality: new reflexes of citizenship and freedom – but also responsibility.
EMA: Do you have any preference for an existing constitutional model when developing a new constitution? Do you exchange views with other countries undergoing a constitutional process, e.g. Egypt or Morocco?
Horchani: No, we do not have a ready-made pattern, but a constitution that dates back to 1959, is not all wrong. We will thus build on its achievements and integrate the circumstances our country faces at present and improve the constitution of 1959 in a way that will better protect our country from past failures. In this process, we will let ourselves be inspired by global experiences, amongst which are also several interesting experiences from Europe.
EMA: How can Europe and especially Germany be of help to Tunisia now in order to support the structuring of the new legislation – while at the same time knowing that the EU failed in its own attempt to establish a European constitution?
Horchani: I think that organizing seminars and training courses for the political parties represented in the Constitutional Commission would be very helpful. Apart from that, Europe can especially help Tunisia to advance economically, particularly by bringing in foreign investments, because without a functioning economy and social justice, democracy will be doomed to fail and unable to hold off all sorts of extremism. The Europeans and especially the Germans have to stimulate the movement of travellers again, because the liberal model chosen by Tunisia must not be put at risk.
In particular, the election result may not affect this. It is a historic chance to prove that a Muslim country can be democratic and that the individual and collective freedoms - equality between men and women and a peaceful change of power - can be ensured.
EMA: The central topic of this Mediterranean issue is logistics, among which we also rank communication. Will the free movement of people and goods be accounted for in the new constitution? And how about the protection of new communication phenomena – the social networks?
Horchani: The fundamental freedoms and the different human rights will be protected under the new constitution. Furthermore, the rights protected under the former constitution will be amended by several new ones: Academic freedom as well as new forms of freedom of speech and communication.
What is especially important in my opinion is the effective guarantee of these rights through a system of constitutional jurisdiction. This will be as important as the constitution itself in protecting these new freedoms, and the judges will play an essential role in any attacks on the constitution by the political elite. Finally, the press and the audio-visual media will play a decisive role in the form of an opposite pole to ensure an effective protection.
*[This article was translated from German to English and was originally published by the Euro-Mediterranean Association for Cooperation and Development (EMA)].
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.