2021 Akkan Constitutional Referendum

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Akkan Constitutional Referendum
10 February 2021
Question: Do you support the creation of a codified constitution outlining the powers and limitations of the Parliament, the Emir and the Judiciary, alongside a bill of rights?
Option Yes No
Popular Vote (%) 46% 54%

The 2021 Akkan Constitutional Referendum was a vote on whether the Islamic Emirate of Acre should adopt a codified constitution. Previously, Acre possessed an uncodified constitution, operating under the principle of parliamentary supremacy. Prime Minister Ben Adelman announced the referendum in late January, and it was held on the 10th of February 2021.

The referendum question was "Do you support the creation of a codified constitution outlining the powers and limitations of the Parliament, the Emir and the Judiciary, alongside a bill of rights?". The 'No' side won with 54% of the cast votes, while 'Yes' took 46%. The referendum dashed Prime Minister Adelman's hope of creating a new constitution for Acre.

Campaigns

Parties in favour Parties opposed
Conservative Party PDU
Labor Zionist Party Liberal Union
Peace & Equality Party Movement for the Homeland
Communist Party

Yes campaign

The 'Yes' campaign was headed by Prime Minister Ben Adelman and Chancellor Eli Barak. Their respective parties, the Conservatives and the Labor Zionists strongly endorsed the campaign, hoping to completely rewrite Acre's constitutional order while still in office.

Government Campaign

The Conservatives and the Liberal Zionists collaborated closely together during the referendum, founding a joint campaign. Though the LZP had supported the Liberal Union's uncodified constitution while in coalition with them, Barak reversed this approach, arguing that a codified constitution and a bill of rights was necessary to protect Acre's various confessional communities, a sentiment echoed by Prime Minister Adelman.

Significant elements of the government's recommendations however were vague, which some believe was a major detriment to their chances. Government officials were purposefully vague as to whether an election would be held prior to constitutional reform, and did not clarify whether the Shura Council would be removed by Parliament, or via a second referendum. Some explain this approach as an attempt not to alienate either right-wing Israelis or Arabs. The government was far more clear on what would be included in the hypothesised 'Bill of Rights' however, which would be modelled on the constitutional guarantees of various European democracies.

Peace & Equality Party

Controversially, Antoun Hussein and the PEP announced their support for the 'Yes' campaign, angering many grassroots supporters, who worried that a yes win would strip Acre's Arab institutions of all their powers, or potentially remove them altogether. Hussein suggested that a codified constitution with a strict bill of rights could not only protect Acre's various minorities, but could also better guarantee and clarify the powers of Acre's Arab institutions, like the Emirate. However, the mention of the "Judiciary" in the question, rather than the "Shura Council" almost led to a rebellion within the party, with many confident that a yes win would see the immediate abolition of the Shura Council by an entirely Israeli Jewish government. Privately, Hussein - himself a Christian - indicated that this might be acceptable, if the Emirate was protected and a bill of rights created.

Despite their support, the PEP chose to campaign mostly independently, so as to clarify the difference between their own approach and that of the government. Hussein also stated that the PEP would vote against any bill changing the constitution before a new general election had been held.

No campaign

The 'No' campaign was headed by Ali Kadhimi and Michelle Levin. Their respective parties, the People's Democratic Union and the Liberal Union jointly formed the campaign, though were motivated by different features of the debate.

Liberal Union

While in office, the Liberal Union (then lead by Prime Minister Joseph Cohen) spearheaded the cause of parliamentary supremacy, believing it best granted Israeli Akkans a major say in the affairs of government while also protecting Arab institutions like the Emirate, who enjoyed considerable flexibility in their powers. Their creation of the Shura Council was controversial, however the initiatives were broadly popular, and when the Liberals were ousted from government in the October 2020 general election, their approach to Acre's institutions was seen as a cause worth protecting.

As a result, there was little disagreement within the party, which unanimously adopted the decision to join a 'No' campaign. Michelle Levin, Leader of the party, assumed a leading role in the campaign, but fellow liberals Joseph Cohen and Isaac Fein also played major roles, given their personal connection to the issue while in government.

People's Democratic Union

Ali Kadhimi and the PDU came out quickly as staunch opponents of the proposal, and closely campaigned with the Liberal Union. They had supported the uncodified constitutional approach of Joseph Cohen while in confidence and supply with the Liberal Union, and argued that the all-Israeli government would seek to implement constitutional reform prior to an election which would dramatically weaken the Arab institutions in Acre. The absence of the 'Shura Council' in the referendum question was read as a guarantee that it would be scrapped, and though it was mentioned, many in the PDU felt the government would seek to scrap the Emirate too, or at least Acre's Islamic/Arab imagery and symbolism.

Movement for the Homeland

To the upset of the rest of the government, Robert Lieberman and the Movement for the Homeland announced their opposition to the 'Yes' campaign, despite being coalition partners with the Conservatives and the Labor Zionists, both of whom had hoped to secure the support of Lieberman.

The Movement stated that while they did support the creation of a codified constitution, any vote on the matter must specify the abolition of the Emirate and the Shura Council. To appease their concerns, Prime Minister Adelman included the term "Judiciary" in the question, to leave open the possibility of removing the controversial Shura Council, but specified that the powers of the "Emir" would be "outlined", indicating it would remain. Thus, Lieberman came out in opposition, arguing that the resultant constitution would be watered down, and would not adequately protect the interests of Israeli Akkans. From the beginning, the Movement campaigned independently, refusing to associate with the wider campaign which included Arab parties.

Communist Party

Yusuf Kanafi and the Communist Party joined the 'No' campaign, arguing that a codified constitution would inhibit the ability to establish a communist state in the future, while also expressing concern that the referendum was being used by the government to trample over Arab rights and interests. Aware of their niche political appeal, the party relied mostly on the second narrative, arguing that the status quo better secured equality among Acre's ethnic and religious confessions.