Zaid Al-Ali of International IDEA has provided a translation of the Draft Preamble of the new Tunisian Constitution. What is noteworthy to me is the predictability of the text. There are very few surprises, perhaps the biggest surprise is the continuity with older tropes in Arab politics.
The Preamble references the fight against oppression back to colonialism, and calls for a true republican system (the last constitution was also nominally republican). Islam receives a good bit of attention. Gone are the references to cooperation with “the African peoples”, but references to Arab unity remain, and Maghreb unity as a step thereto. These sources of identity are the traditional ones. Added are references to free elections and political competition, which is welcome but hardly surprising. The Palestinian struggle is singled out for attention–to my knowledge this is a first in a national constitution other than that of the Palestinian authority. The precise formula for referring to international agreements is still to be decided. Another new point is the reference to the environment. All in all, the document reflects a balance between traditional pan-Arab thought and striving for a fairer system for Tunisia, which provides a clue to the mindset of the drafting committee at the moment.
The Draft follows. thanks again to Zaid for providing it.
In the name of God, the most Gracious, the most Merciful
We, the representatives of the Tunisian people, members of the Constituent Assembly, elected based on the realization of the revolution for dignity, freedom and justice;
Taking pride in the Tunisian people’s struggle through history for liberation: fighting colonialism, and resisting oppression until its free will was victorious; and in loyalty to the martyrs and to the victims over consecutive generations of struggle; and definitively breaking away from inequality, corruption and injustice;
Based on the principles of Islam and on Islam’s purpose which is based on moderation and openness, and on fundamental humanitarian principles; and inspired by the Tunisian people’s civilization over the ages, and its history of reform which is inspired by its Arab and Islamic identity and by its civilizational and human accomplishments; and committed to the Tunisian people’s national accomplishments, and in response to the objectives of the revolution for dignity which crowned the epic of its long struggle;
For the purpose of establishing a true republican system; in which the people are the source of all authority, in which organisational diversity, administrative neutrality, free elections leading to a peaceful transfer of power are the basis of political competition; and in which government is based on democracy, human rights, the independence of state authorities, the rule of law, and justice and equality in the enjoyment of rights and in the satisfaction of obligations on the part of individuals and groups;
Based on our faith in the human being in his absolute humanity as a dignified being, providing him with natural capabilities and the accomplishments of civilization so that he builds on it; strengthening our cultural and civilizational belonging to the Arab and Islamic nation; confirming our national unity based on citizenship, brotherhood and social solidarity, and striving for a Maghreb union, which is a step towards Arab unity; committed to supporting the oppressed, to the rights of peoples to determine their own destiny, and to the just liberation movements (in particular the Palestinian liberation movement)
[it is suggested: (i) that this paragraph should end here; (ii) that the following wording should be added at the end of the paragraph: in conformity with international agreements and conventions; (iii) that the following wording should be added to the end of the paragraph: in conformity with international agreements and conventions in so far as they conform with the Tunisian people’s religious and cultural values; (iv) that the following should be added: in conformity with international agreements and
conventions in so far as they conform with the constitution];
In response to the ambitions of the Tunisian people to be, in all its components, the author of the homeland’s history, the Tunisian people being the carrier of the banner of the pioneering spirit and initiative of enlightened action as it was throughout history; and in support of its ambition to contribute to civilization; and in the context of cooperation with the people of the world based on the principles of peace, mutual respect, joint interests and human solidarity; dealing with nature with the care that guarantees life’s sustainability to future generations in a sound environment that allows to make a
better future for humanity;
We therefore, based on God’s blessing, in the name of the people establish this Constitution.