Tunisia has a long constitutional history. The Carthage Constitution seems to be the oldest one in the human history. In the nineteenth century, it enacted its first modern Constitution in 1861, i.e. four years after the promulgation of the Bill of Rights (1857). Nevertheless, the Constitution was rapidly suspended (1864). The third permanent constitution was promulgated three years after the independence (1959). It established a presidential regime, whereas it was supposed to frame a constitutional monarchy. In the reality, things were not that different. During 53 years, Tunisia had only two presidents. At the end of December 2010, unrest started when a young man in the city of Sidi Bouzid, Mohamed Bouazizi, burnt himself after a dispute with a police officer who confiscated his small business tools.
386 persons died in the confrontation, including policemen and 7749 were injured. The President of the Republic left the country on 14 January 2011, and a new provisional power was established. Less than one year later, a Constituent Assembly was elected, and a new constitution was promulgated in early 2014. Since, free elections were organized under the Constitution end 2014. The Tunisians elected a President who was part of the Bourguiba and the Ben Ali regimes, but a parliament where no one dominated, including Islamists and leftists. Certain liberal parties emerged, but never dominated. Months later, the President’s party winded-up and many personalities left it to constitute several new parties. The political instability led the country to 7 Heads of government and 10 government substantial changes between 2011 and 2019, with much fewer changes in the presidency of the State.
Nowadays, Tunisians believe that the main positive achievements on which there is a clear consensus are: the freedom of expression, and the peaceful transition of power. On the other fronts, difficulties are tangible. The economic worries and the political instability are the weaker elements of the chain.
Undoubtedly, the peaceful nature of the transition and the overall equilibrium between the political players is certainly due to a special kind of “collective cleverness” of the Tunisians, who handled the revolutionary moment in a wise and reasonable way and avoided serious deviations in difficult moments. The National Dialogue (2013) is a clear evidence of this “collective intelligence”. It is certain that its long history, during which the recourse to violence was limited, and invading civilizations were merged with local traditions and culture helped the country have a culture of realism and reasonableness, even though democracy needs more than those ingredients. The need to a more efficient plan for combating corruption is the most supportive proof of this conclusion.
As Legal Advisor in Chief to the three Post-revolution Presidents of the Republic of Tunisia, Ahmed Ouerfelli helped three presidents navigate Tunisia’s transition: Fouad Mebazaa (2011), Moncef Marzouki (2011-2014), and current President Beji Caid Essebsi (2014 – Feb. 2015). A former judge, Ouerfelli had previously served in the public sector for over twenty years. He resigned in September 2014 and joined the Tunisian Bar as an independent lawyer and is now a Senior Partner at ‘Ouerfelli Attorneys & Counsels’ focusing on arbitration, taxation, and business law in general. He has authored numerous legal articles and books on subjects ranging from commercial arbitration to sports law. He holds an MA in Private and Business Law from the Faculty of Law and Political Sciences at University of Tunis El Manar.
This event is cosponsored by the Law School International Programs, Muslim Law Student Association, and International Law Society.
Lunch will be provided.