Academic journal article International Journal of Peace Studies

Failing Consociationalism in Lebanon and Integrative Options

Academic journal article International Journal of Peace Studies

Failing Consociationalism in Lebanon and Integrative Options

Article excerpt

Lebanese Governing System and the Crisis of Consociationalism

Lebanon has come to satisfy the conditions under which most consociational systems have arisen. In 1943, the Lebanese National Covenant (Al-Methak Al-Watany) established corporate consociationalism as the de jure power sharing arrangement between the various confessions within the state. These conditions have been defined as the presence of distinct social cleavages, a multiple balance-of-power between the various groupings within the country, public attitudes accepting of government by grand coalition, a light load on the political system, and a small size that precludes an active foreign policy (Jabbra and Jabbra, 2001: 71-77).

The consociational system allocated the presidency to a Christian Maronite, the premiership to a Muslim Sunni, and the Speakership to a Muslim Shi'ite. All public offices were corporate according to confessional and sectarian affiliations. They were assigned confessions on the proportional principle of 5 Muslims to every 6 appointed Christians. Along the same confessional office-allocation principle, all elected seats of the National Assembly were divided. Cabinet ministers and ministry general-directors as well as heads of the Armed Forces, the Central Bank, and the National University, among other sensitive public positions, were distributed along sectarian lines to accommodate the delicate confessional balance.

The end result of this corporate consociational division of power has been a self-perpetuating capture of the state by a political sectarian elite that both lacks national accountability and undermines government commitment to the public good. The sectarian elite's confessional division of power was consolidated by an electoral system that undermined non-sectarian and independent challengers. A plurality list-based majority system within districts of a manageable size provided the incumbent confessional elites with the ability to trade votes across sectarian lines without necessarily soliciting votes from their own social grouping. This factor helped incumbent elite candidates to secure electoral victories and left them free to negotiate with other sectarian elites the division of public offices and resources. Sectarian elites became indispensible oligopolistic patrons to their sectarian cliental constituencies, politically "inheriting" sectarian public offices. [This phenomenon is often referred to in Lebanon as "political feudalism"--Al-Ikta'a Al-Seyasse. Examples of elite families that inherited political offices across generations are: Al-Khazen, Junbulat, Al-Assad, Slam, Tueini, Saad.]

The political outcome of this arrangement is such that the confessional elites have become adept at grasping onto the patronage spoils from a division of the public sector pie, trading alliances and allegiances in efforts to maximize their proportion of influence. The main consequence of this outcome is that low priority is given to overcoming the common and pressing reform issues that challenged the entire country, such as the need for economic growth, public accountability, and the rule of law (Salamey and Payne, 2008).

The confessional predetermination of state power among many sects, each having veto power over public decisions, undermined the realization of a functional and strong government system. Instead, a deeply divided and a weak confessional state was established. The immediate result was a spread of social and political insecurity among its citizens, forcing sectarian groups to rely on their own social and security networks, and to look for support beyond Lebanon's borders (Hudson, 1968:34). The state, acting as a trustee, became notorious for its immobility and its inability to implement policies that would promote progress and prevent deterioration (Kerr, 1966: 188).

As a consequence, the sectarian conflict dynamic was heightened, violent conflict followed, and the state repeatedly failed. …

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