Current Research Projects

Security Sector Oversight: Protecting Democratic Consolidation from Partisan Abuse

There are two constitutional questions regarding the security sector on the constitutional agenda in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The first is how to get the security sector out of politics and establish civilian government: the restructuring of civil-military relations in the wake of past abuse is key to democratization.  For example, Turkey’s Justice and Development Party launched reforms to the power and status of the military in 2011, while the framework for civil-military relations in Egypt’s post-Mubarak constitution remains a major issue.  The role of the security forces during Mursi’s presidency and in the fall of Mursi’s government drives home the need to get the military out of politics and raises questions of how to limit partisan abuse of the security services in Egypt. It remains an open question whether the arrangements in Egypt’s 2013 Constitution serves this purpose. Tunisia’s 2014 Constitution, for its part, includes very few rules about the extent of government control over the security sector.

The second question – once civilian government is in place – is how to avoid the danger that a newly elected democratic government will abuse the security sector for partisan purposes, undermine its political opposition, and thereby threaten democratic consolidation. Under the MENA region’s pre-Arab Spring regimes, the police and intelligence services were used as instruments of political repression, undermining the ability of the political opposition to organize and openly challenge government policies.  Since democratization involves the shift of power to precisely those political actors who were oppressed by the security apparatus, it is unsurprising that the reform of the internal security apparatus is a major issue in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia.

This project will address these two questions. The policy question is whether legal and institutional design (including constitutions) can create policy frameworks for non-military, civilian government without the attendant danger of partisan abuse.  Can we achieve civilianization without politicization?  The civilianization imperative is an integral component of the democratization agenda, while the politicization of the security services threatens a return to democratic authoritarianism.  Getting these details right in the process of democratization is profoundly important to the success of constitutional transitions from authoritarian rule.  Addressing this issue is of pressing importance for both the policy and academic communities.

Partners: The West Asia and North Africa Office of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA); International Development Research Centre (IDRC); The Center for the Implementation of Public Policies Promoting Equity and Growth (CIPPEC).

Steering Committee: Zaid Al-Ali (International IDEA), Sujit Choudhry (Constitutional Transitions), and Richard Stacey (Constitutional Transitions).

Experts: 15 experts from 12 countries.

Outputs: policy framework document and case studies.

Status: In progress; Tunis meeting for expert network in Tunis in August 2014; projected completion: Spring 2015.