National Pact

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The National Pact (Arabic: الميثاق الوطني‎) is an unwritten agreement that laid the foundation of Lebanon as a multiconfessional state, having shaped the country to this day. Following negotiations between the Shia, Sunni, and Maronite leaderships. This agreement was made between the president at the time, Bishara al-Khuri and the prime minister Riad Al Solh. Mainly, centered around the interests of political elite, the Maronite elite served as a voice for the Christian population of Lebanon while the Sunni elite represented the voice of the Muslim population.[1] The National Pact was born in the summer of 1943, allowing Lebanon to be independent.

Key points of the agreement stipulate that:

Lebanese Muslims[3][4][5][6][7][8][9]
Year Percent
1932
42%
1985
75%
2010
54%
2012
53.5%
2017
48%
Lebanese Christians[3][4][5][6][7][8]
Year Percent
1932
51%
1985
25%
2010
40.5%
2012
41%
2017
46%

A Christian majority of 51% in the 1932 census – widely considered manipulated in their favor[10][failed verification] – was the underpinning of a government structure that gave the Christians control of the presidency, command of the armed forces, and a parliamentary majority. However, following a wider trend, the generally richer Muslim population has increased faster than the poorer Christians.[citation needed] Additionally, the Christians were emigrating in large numbers, further eroding their only marginal population edge, and it soon became clear that Christians wielded a disproportionate amount of power. As years passed without a new census, dissatisfaction with the government structure and sectarian rifts increased, eventually sparking the Lebanese Civil War.[11] The Taif Agreement of 1989 changed the ratio of Parliament to 1:1 and reduced the power of the Maronite president; it also provided that eventually, the Parliament would become bicameral, with a Senate representing religious communities and a Chamber of Deputies chosen on a non-sectarian basis. It is commonly believed that once this Bicameral Parliament is established, the Senate would have a 1:1 Christian-to-Muslim ratio similarly to the current Parliament[12] and the President of the Senate would be required to be a Druze,[13] in accordance with the dictates of the National Pact.

History[edit]

Pursuit of Lebanese independence[edit]

In 1922, the French Mandate of Syria and Lebanon assigned France control of the government of what are now Lebanon and Syria, separating them from the former Ottoman Empire. This was done with the intention of developing both nations into independent states with progressive laws. It provided for the placement of French troops within both nations in order to defend both states and their sovereignty in addition to establishing Lebanese and Syrian militias to support the mandate. Additionally, the French mandate allowed France complete access to infrastructure in both Lebanon and Syria, sole control over their foreign relations, and power over the excavation and archeological research of antique artifacts in both countries. It established the official languages in both nations as French and Arabic and specified that France must report back to the League of Nations on a yearly basis with a report of the progress in Lebanon and Syria.

Though promising both countries financial compensation and reimbursement for these decisions, there was significant pushback from those in both Syria and Lebanon.[14] In Lebanon specifically, prior to attaining independence, much of the government's efforts and politics in general were simply centered around gaining independence from France. When finally on the verge of attaining independence, the difficulty in finding effective ways of organizing the government became most apparent given the enormous religious diversity of the country. The creation of the National Pact gave Lebanon a solidified structure to pursue with their newfound independence, though not necessarily appeasing all religious groups within the country. For many, it provided a necessary order and an outward sense of unity and multi-confessionalism that would allow them to maintain their own political state. ([15]).

The implications of the 1932 Lebanese census[edit]

In 1932, the Lebanese Government under French mandate conducted a census that ultimately determined political representation within the Lebanese government after acquiring independence through the national pact. The census served not only to discover the ratios of different religious sects within Lebanon, ultimately determining the ratios within the government, but it also determined Lebanese citizenship through a focus on the documentation of immigrants as well. Because the results of the census demonstrated a Maronite Christian majority of 51%, the National Pact then set in place the requirements of a Maronite Christian always holding the presidency and the parliament having a 6:5 ratio in favor of Christians as well.

Some controversy arose in response to the census. The first of which being that the census did not accurately define their definition of a Lebanese citizen and worked off a definition created by the Ottoman Empire defining it as a presence in Lebanon during August 1924, the last time when it would have been recorded. This made it difficult to assure that the resulting ratios produced by the census were entirely accurate to the demographics of the population. Because of this, some argued that the census itself was biased, that it was created with the intention of maintaining a status quo representation of Lebanon as a Christian nation and helped maintain the power of the current elites.[16]

This becomes increasingly more important as the 1932 Lebanese census became the basis for the creation of all of the ratios defined within the national pact, perpetuating power of the Maronite Christians within the government in Lebanon.[17] Because Maronite Christians were more closely aligned with the French government and French interests in Lebanon, many feared that their subsequent power and the establishment of the National pact assuring Lebanese independence was done with purpose to adhere to French interests.[18]

Introduction and reception[edit]

The National Pact was first introduced to the public on October 7, 1943 by Riad Al Solh in his ministerial declaration in attempts to present a uniquely Lebanese identity, separate from both the western world and the eastern world. They chose to depict the National Pact as a representation of the fundamental base for shared belief between the different sects of Lebanon. Additionally, the elite reiterated that this was the only way Lebanon could attain independence and that though Sunni's may be unhappy with the lack of union with Syria, the definition of Lebanon as an Arab state is the best form of compromise. Unfortunately, for the Lebanese elite, however, this was no guarantee that the public would receive it well especially because the assumption that the Lebanese public would immediately support the National Pact simply because of the elite consensus wasn't an accurate one. Generally, there continued to be dissenting voices towards the Pact throughout its establishment none of which taking hold to create any legitimate change to the government it put in place.[19]

Though this dissent did exist amongst various groups, the established system was generally tolerated by most sects until 1958 when the threats to the National Pact in tandem with other political conflict lead to disruption of the order that the Pact had established in Lebanon.[20]

Implications[edit]

Immobilism[edit]

It is argued that the National Pact created immobilism, which led to "administrative inefficiency both in decision-making and implementation".[21] Although Lebanon went through huge social mobility, such as a rapid demographic change and urbanization after its independence[22],the state could not deal with social inequality and public discontent because of the rigid form of power-sharing which lacked flexibility to accommodate changes in society.[23] Once power-sharing took its form, it became the political and economic interests of those in power to maintain the system.[24]

Sectarian Divisions[edit]

It is also argued that the National Pact cemented the extant sectarian divisions by institutionalizing them through power-sharing. Politicians were usually regarded as representing religious communities, which resulted in non-coherent policy in the government. “The state-idea of Lebanon, fragile as it was, strengthened the sectarian differences already extant”.[25]

Lebanese Civil War[edit]

The weakness of state and lack of national identity with fragmented sub-national segments made Lebanon susceptible to external factors. “The external dimension of the National Pact” was characterized with neutrality either toward “the Christian West or the Islamic Arab world”.[26] Such attitude could be maintained as long as “faulty assumption” “that the balance-of-power in the region would remain unchanged” was valid.[27] However, in reality, external environment around Lebanon after its independence dramatically changed. Specifically, two threats to the power of the National Pact in addition to the rising tensions between Muslims and Christians over political power in tandem to nearby violence of the Arab-Israeli war and accusations of a corrupt election all led to the horribly violent Lebanese civil war.

Specifically, the first violation of the National Pact occurred when Lebanon accepted assistance through the Eisenhower doctrine. The second threat to the National Pact occurred when the Egyptian-Syrian United Arab Republic and the pan-Arab Campaign began pushing Lebanon to join and unite with other Arab countries, threatening the portion of the National Pact identifying Lebanon as an independent nation separate from other countries in the region. On top of the nearby violence and the threats to the National Pact, there was also increased tension between the Muslim sects within Lebanon and the Christian sects. Many larger groups began fragmenting, some uniting with Palestinian refugees fleeing the Arab-Israeli war, some of them joining leftist groups and opposing the national pact, certain groups’ stress about involvement of the Lebanese military, and also various right wing organizations who agreed with the national pact and its maintenance of national order.[20]

Controversy[edit]

Though technically at the time of its passing, the National pact guaranteed the President to be Maronite Christian due to the majority Christian population in Lebanon, however, due to the lack of checks on the president within the Lebanese constitution the decision to always have a Maronite president had much larger implications than were initially intended. The Lebanese Constitution leaves the presidential position unchecked by parliament, so an elected Maronite president would have complete executive authority.[1] Additionally, the fear for many that the 1932 national census that lead to the statistics ultimately resulting in a permanent Maronite Christian presidency may not have been entirely accurate due to inability to define Lebanese citizenship and the feared bias to maintain the status quo, also called the presidency into question. Many feared that the desire of the political elite to identify Lebanon as a primarily Christian nation led to inherent biases within the census and the ultimate decision to divide the government along the ratios that it did.[28] This was reiterated by the idea that the Maronite Christians were the most closely aligned with the French mandate in Lebanon so some believed that the National Pact was put into place in order to maintain the same status quo as was held under France's mandate under the guise of promoting independence.[20]

Some other controversy around the national pact is because it was formulated through constitutional amendments, though much of the processes it stipulates and requirements are never actually detailed. For this reason, there is no written time limit on how long the stipulations within the national pact should take place, even though the demographics of the Lebanese population may not always be with a Maronite Christian majority. Additionally, no processes were detailed describing the ways the governmental proportions should be enacted. In fact, the National Pact directly contradicts other aspects of the constitution stating that anyone can run for office solely on the basis of merit and competence, never once acknowledging religious affiliation.[20]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Specific
  1. ^ a b Krayem, Hassan. "The Lebanese Civil War and the Taif Agreement". American University of Beirut. American University of Beirut. Archived from the original on 2018-10-15. Retrieved 2019-11-07.
  2. ^ Binder 1966: 276
  3. ^ a b "Contemporary distribution of Lebanon's main religious groups". Library of Congress. 1988. Retrieved 6 December 2015.
  4. ^ a b "Contemporary distribution of Lebanon's main religious groups". theodora.com. 1988. Retrieved 6 December 2015.
  5. ^ a b Tom Najem (July 1998). "The Collapse and Reconstruction of Lebanon" (PDF). Durham Middle East Papers. University of Durham Centre for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies (59). ISSN 1357-7522. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 March 2012. Retrieved 6 December 2015.
  6. ^ a b "Lebanon: Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor - International Religious Freedom Report 2010". U.S. Department of State. 17 November 2010. Retrieved 6 December 2015.
  7. ^ a b "Lebanon: Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor - 2012 Report on International Religious Freedom". U.S. Department of State. 20 May 2013. Retrieved 6 December 2015.
  8. ^ a b "The World Factbook". Cia.gov. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  9. ^ "The Lebanese Demographic Reality- 2013" (PDF). Lebanese Information Center.
  10. ^ Jaulin 2014, p. 251.
  11. ^ Randal 1983: 50
  12. ^ [1] - "In view of this, various proponents of bicameralism have suggested that rather than trying to re-invent the wheel with an entirely new formula, one should base the Senate’s composition on the parliamentary scheme adopted at Ta’if, a chamber divided equally between Muslims and Christians with proportional breakdowns thereafter [...] To the extent that the average person has spent any time thinking about how to compose a Lebanese Senate, this formula is probably the most widely supported and would likely have the best chance of being adopted."
  13. ^ [2] - "Certainly the most commonly encountered idea associated with the proposed Senate is the baseless notion that it will have to be headed by a Druze. Why? Because, so the theory goes, the three largest sects (Maronites, Sunnis, and Shi`a) each have their own “presidencies” while the fourth-largest sect does not. Obviously, this idea which is based on the logic of apportioning power on a sectarian basis runs against the entire de-confessionalist project. Nonetheless, the “Druze Senate Leader” meme remains a stubborn component of the popular mythology surrounding the Senate."
  14. ^ "French Mandate for Syria and the Lebanon". The American Journal of International Law. 17 (2): 177–182. July 1923. doi:10.2307/2212963. JSTOR 2212963. S2CID 163370230.
  15. ^ el-Khazen, Farid (1991). The Communal Pact of National Identities: The Making and Politics of the 1943 National Pact. Oxford, UK: The Centre for Lebanese Studies. ISBN 1-870552-20-2.
  16. ^ Maktabi, Rania (November 1999). "The Lebanese Census of 1932 Revisited. Who are the Lebanese?". British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies. 26 (2): 219–241. doi:10.1080/13530199908705684. hdl:10852/34924.
  17. ^ Krayem, Hassan. "The Lebanese Civil War and the Taif Agreement". American University of Beirut. American University of Beirut. Archived from the original on 2018-10-15. Retrieved 2019-11-07.
  18. ^ Chamie, Joseph (Winter 1976–1977). "The Lebanese Civil War: An Investigation Into the Causes". World Affairs. 139 (3): 171–188. JSTOR 20671682.
  19. ^ el-Khazen, Farid (1991). The Communal Pact of National Identities: The Making and Politics of the 1943 National Pact. Oxford, UK: The Centre for Lebanese Studies. ISBN 1-870552-20-2.
  20. ^ a b c d Chamie, Joseph (Winter 1976–1977). "The Lebanese Civil War: An Investigation Into the Causes". World Affairs. 139 (3): 171–188. JSTOR 20671682.
  21. ^ Hudson, Michael C. 1976. “The Limits of Consociational Democracy” Journal of Palestinian Studies, Spring-Summer 1976, Vol. 5, No. 3, P109-122
  22. ^ Traboulsi, Fawwaz. 2007. “A History of Modern Lebanon”
  23. ^ Hudson, Michael C. 1976. “The Limits of Consociational Democracy,” Journal of Palestinian Studies, Spring-Summer 1976, Vol. 5, No. 3, P109-122
  24. ^ Kerr Michael. 2006. “A National Pact” in “Imposing Power-Sharing: Conflict and Coexistence in Northern Ireland and Lebanon” Chapter 5
  25. ^ Kliot, N. 1987. “The Collapse of the Lebanese State” Middle Eastern Studies, Jan. 1987, Vol. 23, No.1, P54–74
  26. ^ Hudson, Michael C. 1976. “The Limits of Consociational Democracy” Journal of Palestinian Studies, Spring-Summer 1976, Vol. 5, No. 3, P109-122
  27. ^ Khazen, Farid. 1991. “The-Communal Pact of National Identities: The Making and Politics of the 1943 National Pact”
  28. ^ Maktabi, Rania (November 1999). "The Lebanese Census of 1932 Revisited. Who are the Lebanese?". British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies. 26 (2): 219–241. doi:10.1080/13530199908705684. hdl:10852/34924.
General
  • Ayubi, Nazih N., "Over-stating the Arab State", London: I.B. Tauris, 1995, pp 190–191.
  • Binder, Leonard. "Politics in Lebanon". New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 1966.
  • Jaulin, Thibaut (2014). "Citizenship, Migration, and Confessional Democracy in Lebanon". Middle East Law and Governance. 6 (3): 250–271. doi:10.1163/18763375-00603009. S2CID 143417552.
  • Randal, Jonathan. "Going All the Way: Christian Warlords, Israeli Adventurers, and the War in Lebanon". New York: The Viking Press, 1983.

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