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Research Report

UN Mediation and the Politics of Transition after Constitutional Crises

Charles T. Call
Copyright Date: Feb. 1, 2012
Pages: 44

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. [i]-[i])
  2. (pp. [ii]-[iii])
  3. (pp. 1-2)
  4. (pp. 3-4)

    Recent coups d’état, unconstitutional changes of government, and other constitutional crises have confronted the UN with a number of recurrent challenges. Chief among them is the need to ensure a principled, coherent, and effective response that will prevent the escalation of violence and facilitate a country’s return to constitutional order. A good deal of scholarship is available on issues of close relevance, including (a) transitions from authoritarian regimes toward democracy; (b) transitional arrangements after civil wars; and (c) powersharing arrangements, including consociationalism. However, less research is available on transitional political arrangements after coups and other crises that do not occur...

  5. (pp. 4-5)

    Constitutional crises may derive from various sources: opposition parties, security forces, mass demonstrations; extrastate armed interventions; or from a combination of these. Departures from constitutional order may also occur when a sitting government refuses to hold a constitutionally required election, when that election fails to meet constitutional standards, or when the authorities refuse to recognize the results of a constitutionally-required election process and stay in power.

    In other words, departures from constitutional order—or constitutional crises—can occur through either,

    an unconstitutional change of government (e.g., Guinea’s successful 2008 coup); or

    an unconstitutional continuity of government (e.g., the alleged electoral...

  6. (pp. 6-9)

    More than one thousand people died and more than 350,000 were displaced in the violence that erupted after national elections in Kenya in December 2007.⁸ Isolated instances of violence initially broke out once the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) announced that President Mwai Kibaki of the Party of National Unity (PNU) had won re-election, despite challenger Raila Odinga’s indications that he had a large lead.⁹ Suspicions of vote tampering ran high given that Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) had garnered a substantial portion of the parliamentary seats. As violence escalated and mediators offered their services, an AU-mandated Panel of Eminent...

  7. (pp. 10-13)

    On August 6, 2008, a bloodless coup deposed President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, who had been elected following a 2005 coup. General Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, one of four military generals fired by President Abdallahi earlier that day, led the coup and became the head of the new junta, called the High Council of State (HCE). Abdallahi was held prisoner until international and national pressure led to his release in December 2008. Major donors and the AU condemned the coup and called for the release of the president and his active participation in resolving the crisis and restoring constitutional order....

  8. (pp. 14-18)

    On December 23, 2008, six hours after the death of Guinea’s longtime ruler Lansana Conté, a coup d’état was announced by Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara on behalf of a group called the National Council for Democracy and Development (CNDD). The military junta dissolved the institutions of government and suspended the constitution and all political and union activity. Partly due to longstanding fears that Conté’s death would usher in civil unrest and the belief that the return to constitutional rule would be swift, the coup initially enjoyed some support, with large crowds taking to the streets to welcome the new rulers....

  9. (pp. 19-22)

    In December 2008, Madagascar’s President Marc Ravalomanana closed the TV station belonging to Andry Rajoelina, the popular thirty-four-year-old mayor of the country’s capital, Antananarivo. This decision prompted mass demonstrations and weeks of protests. By late January, demonstrators calling for democratic reforms had shifted to demanding an ouster of the “dictator” president and the formation of a transitional government to convene new elections. Violence and vandalism increased, and Ravalomanana announced the removal of Rajoelina from his post on February 3, 2009. Four days later, Rajoelina announced the formation of a High Transitional Authority (HAT) to govern the country. Tensions deepened after...

  10. (pp. 23-29)

    In February 2010, demonstrators in the north of the country launched protests against price hikes due to the privatization of utilities. These spread in the subsequent weeks, with protestors raising their demands to include the resignation of President Bakiev. On April 6th, protesters stormed the governor’s offices in the northern town of Talas and declared a “people’s government.”15 Government forces took back the building, but protests swelled and spread to other cities the next day, fueled by the arrest of several opposition political leaders. Protesters overwhelmed security forces in some cases, and took the presidential offices in the capital Bishkek....

  11. (pp. 30-30)

    Table 1 below categorizes some of the key features across the cases. The table is not intended to present clear trends or subcategories, but to offer a quick, accessible way to see some of the salient features of these transitions. A number of patterns merit mention:

    First, the African Union, as well as ECOWAS and SADC, denounced departures from constitutional order in all cases within their respective member states, except for the electoral dispute in Kenya. However, the ouster of Kyrgyzstan’s president was not condemned by the OSCE and was only condemned by the Collective Security Treaty Organisation a month...

  12. (pp. 31-35)

    This concluding section seeks to answer a number of questions, however tentatively. It will make reference mainly to the five cases examined, but also to others, such as Fiji, Niger, and Honduras, where relevant. Are there commonalities to these experiences? What conditions shape whether mediation succeeds and constitutional order can be restored? What sorts of transitional arrangements seem most prevalent? What are the consequences of different transitional arrangements? What do these cases suggest about the UN’s ability to affect new coup regimes or other unconstitutional governments? What do they suggest about the way the elements of the UN system work...

  13. (pp. 36-39)
  14. (pp. 40-40)