In the November newsletter we share with you four original Voices from the Field and a number of updates on constitutional reform processes in different parts of the world.
In Chad, despite initial indications from President Deby and preferences for federalism from the Christian minority in the south, the technical committee for constitutional reforms has recommended a decentralized unitary state. While the reforms include some innovations, such as presidential term limits and the establishment of a new senate, opposition groups and civil society groups have dismissed the process as an opportunistic strategy to allow the president to continue to cling onto power.
A sense of marginalization accentuated by inadequate corrective measures, but often also violent government crackdown, has triggered popular protests in Cameroon's two English-speaking regions. Activists and international actors have demanded open and inclusive political dialogue, which may result in significant legislative and constitutional reform, the lack of which will vitalize demands for independence in these regions. Presidential elections in 2018 offer significant prospects for a pathway out, especially if the elections result in regime change. But the lack of clarity regarding incumbent President Biya’s intentions creates an uncertain future.
The temporary suspension of Catalan autonomy and the planned regional elections do not address the fundamental causes of the crisis. Constitutional reform appears to be the most plausible way forward. Nevertheless, political divisions and the difficulty of amending the Spanish constitution may hinder the process. If successful, constitutional reform would ward off the ghost of an ‘irreformable Spain’ and strengthen its legitimacy.
In Australia, the rejection of the proposed advisory Indigenous Voice to the Parliament affirms the difficulty of achieving constitutional changes that are driven by the interests or concerns of a small minority of the population where the procedures for change are heavily majoritarian. Nevertheless, the rejection may be a reflection of the volatility in current Australian politics, instead of popular resistance. Proponents should take the debate outside formal federal political circles to encourage public debate and acceptance
The remaining updates cover a range of issues in countries ranging from Sudan to Bahamas and from Australia to Ukraine providing an excellent overview of recent constitutional developments around the globe.