Monday, October 29, 2007

Electing a Lebanese President 102 - B: Sectarian Interests

On sectarian interests, there is a case to be made by the Maronite Patriarch – and those Christian political leaders who have adopted the stance – for a two thirds interpretation of the presidential clause [pre-November 12th. As mentioned in earlier posts, after Nov 12th, the election of a President by a simple majority is perfectly legal under any interpretation].

In a community paranoid about the loss of political representation and influence in a country where demographic trends have pulled at that influence for decades, that interpretation stands on the grounds that the constitution – and the amendments implemented to it up to now in the Taef – is a sectarian one at its core; and the interpretation of any articles [in general, but for now specifically] pertaining to the selection of the community’s top post must take into account the spirit with [and circumstances under] which that document was drafted.

Those circumstances [and the spirit to which is alluded] mean [to those players above] that for an accord: negotiated to sow sectarian cohesion back together after nearly 20 years of violent sectarian conflict; in which the powers of the top Christian post were drastically weakened in favour of a Sunni Muslim post (that of the Prime Minister); and in which a Parliamentary Christian-to-Muslim ratio of 6-to-5 was reduced to one of 5-to-5; it would have been ludicrous and irresponsible for the representatives [of all the sects present] to assume that the Christians would also agree to the possibility of a Muslim [+1] election of the country’s Christian President (no matter the embedded vagueness that comes with having the Syrian regime “sponsor” the accord).

And while some would argue that the agreement could just as well have entailed a Christians [+1] vote, the historical fractionality of the community [as compared to the other communities], in addition to the community's respectively decreasing demographics and the intervening circumstances of the time-period in which the Accord was drafted, might prove otherwise.

Those circumstances outlined a bloody civil war in which members of the country's Christian community fought [and led] on either side of the political divide. While turf wars were not uncommon in any community, the broad strokes of the conflict [in its dying days, at least] defined a purely Christian anti-Syrian wing against a mixed Muslim-Christian pro-Syrian one. At the time Article 73 was (re-)written at the end of the war, the Christians were divided, just as they had been at the beginning of it.

And so, it is that sectarian-based interpretation of the Constitution and its articles surrounding the Presidency that is driving the positions of the Patriarch and those March 14th Christians openly declaring their support for a position that would otherwise be incompatible with their political stances.


  1. Well of course that is their reasoning. Unfortunately it is a mentality that the Christians of Lebanon have tried and tested over and over since independence and before, only to their loss - time and time again. What the Lebanese minorities, specifically the Christians of Lebanon, seem to fail to understand is that their only defense against demographic forces is the (gradual?) secularization of the state.
    Simply put, take Lebanon's current parliamentary electoral law. The Qadaa (or Mohafaza constituencies) mean that Muslims will end up electing Christians to parliament according to their percentage. An alternative pushed by some minorities, a system that is sectarian and where one district elects one person, is discriminatory in nature and would lead to a Christian MP representing almost have the constituency of a Muslim MP thus leading to popular discord. The third alternative is accepting the fact that demographics are not a constant and that the only way out is through secularization and a proportional representation system ... Muslims would still be electing Christians to parliament, and vice versa - hopefully with the difference being that the potential candidates would have to abandon sectarian agendas and demagoguery in favor of dialog, national interest, and a semi-civilized discourse...

    Anyway, its quite far fetched that anything will be done to change the stinking status quo...

  2. Hi R,

    I agree that gradual secularization is the key.

    I don't agree that it is far fatched though. I mean its already in the Taef and I believe most Lebanese parties (minus Hizballah) are interested in implementing the Taef.

  3. I hope you are right. Doesn't seem that way to me though. Take Jumblatt for example, for all the courage he has displayed, he still verbally sticks to Taef, but I doubt he would endorse a popular representation system. In fact, if I recall correctly he made a couple of statements a while ago expressing his objections to it.

    I think the same would go for the Christian mainstream. Those 2 sides basically cover the main minorities in Lebanon and they seem attached to a policy that is sure to deminish their role (as a group)... It seems so simple to me that since the role of minorities (as such) is bound to diminish, why not gun for the role of all sects (as homogeneous groups) and strengthen the role of both the individual and non-sectarian parties in politics. Of course, I know I am preaching to the choir here, but its completely amazing to me that we have to give such an important role (for example) to what the Patriarch has to say simply because it suits our purposes - even though his stupidity is partly to blame for the mess we are in now.

    It is this kind of short-sighted politics that will in the long term take us precisely where we don't want to go...

  4. R,

    I don't think you're correctly identifying the obstacles standing in the way of the implementation of the Taef Accords.

    I think the Taef Accords were, in fact, at the heart of the Cedar Revolution. I think M14 members, for the most part are moving in that direction, and I think the main obstacle to a full implementation of the accord is in fact Hizballah.

    Now I don't want to vouch for politicians ['cause thats a lose-lose situation if I ever saw one] but I will support ideas and promoters of those ideas will benefit from that support. If they deviate from the idea, they lose my support (which may not be worth much but thats how I approach politics).


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