Monday, February 20, 2006

Congolese constitutionalism and same-sex marriage

The Democratic Republic of Congo has a new constitution, highlighted by a president limited to two terms, an elected prime minister and parliament, and an independent judiciary: "All this is new for DR Congo, a country which is trying to emerge from years of war and which had its last free elections 40 years ago."

But, alas, the constitution also prohibits same-sex marriage. The Congo may soon be democratic, and that's a huge step forward for a country long beset by civil war and political crisis, much of it since the 1994 Rwandan genocide, but this one prohibition should serve as a reminder that democracy and liberty are not the same thing, that it's possible to have democracy without liberty, particularly liberty for all.

What, after all, is democracy without rights? Yet another form of tyranny.

We should celebrate this significant development and we should wish the Congolese well. The transition to constitutional democracy has not been an easy one and there are still obstacles ahead -- the first truly democratic elections are set for June. But we should also remember that democracy alone is not enough, that rights, natural rights, come first: Constitutionalism in this modern, Lockean sense is meant to build a political regime upon those rights.

The Congo still has a way to go -- but, then, so do we.

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  • An elected prime minister? No. Like other semi-presidential systems (e.g. France), Congo's new constitution has an elected president who nominates a prime minister, who in turn appoints and heads a cabinet that serves at the pleasure of parliament's majority.

    Sorry to pick on one point that was barely germane to the overall post, but that's my specialty (constitutions, not picking on non-germane points).

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:02 PM  

  • Actually, I'm glad you did. Thanks for the clarification. I did some quick reading up on the Congolese constitution, but I hadn't looked into it closely.

    By the way, Matthew is the author of an excellent blog on all things electoral, Fruits and Votes, which you can now find in my blogroll under "Specialty Blogs". I highly recommend it.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 12:07 AM  

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