Lebanon Power Sharing Agreement

The agreement, signed in Saudi Arabia on October 22, 1989, aimed to end the devastating civil war that began in 1975 and reconcile a deeply divided country. Behind the innocuous façade of a transfer of executive privileges from a once all-powerful presidency to the Council of Ministers, Taif has reorganized constitutional powers and apparatuses. It also introduced an entirely new paradigm for a sectarian balance of power by ending the political and symbolic hegemony of the Maronite establishment. However, the purpose of the delegated presidential powers was still unclear. By transferring these powers to the cabinet, where religious parity was a formal guarantee of equality between communities, Taif also spread and distributed power, making it difficult to locate and exercise it. It was also unclear who should be held accountable for decisions. This situation has been exacerbated by several provisions of the agreement, which have probably been deliberately left vague and requiring interpretation. Only time will tell whether Rafik Hariri, as claimed by Syria and its Lebanese allies, was responsible for the adoption of the resolution, or at least an active partner in the adoption of the resolution, whose aim was to force a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon and even bring about regime change in Damascus. The anti-Hariri sentiment already prevalent in Bashar al-Assad`s circles, with all its sectarian foundations, has reached its climax. Hariri had not only broken the original treaty with the Syrian leadership when he came to power, namely to be the guardian of Syrian interests in Lebanon and an instrument obeying the name of the Sunni community; it was now seen as a vital threat to the Assad regime itself, on behalf of its Saudi bosses and probably, in the eyes of Assad, France and the United States.

12 The most powerful political proposal, aimed at fundamental change, presented by a coalition of Muslim political forces, left-wing political parties and figures close to the Palestinian national movement, called for the abolition of political sectarianism, with the exception of the presidency of the republic, which should be reserved for a Christian, but not necessarily for a Maronite. and the post of prime minister for a Muslim, but not necessarily a Sunni. Some say this model has been exported to other post-war countries such as Iraq, where a similar sectarian power-sharing system is also blamed for corruption and government mismanagement amid massive anti-government protests. In addition, Taif laid the foundations for privileged relations between Lebanon and Syria, with implications for the political environment of both countries. Of the three principles, the first two are the most relevant to this discussion of Lebanese sectarianism. The third, however, would probably prove to be the most important. Some Christians prefer the political and administrative decentralization of government, with separate Muslim and Christian sectors operating as part of a confederation. Muslims, for the most part, prefer a unified central government with an increased share of power equal to their largest share of the population. The reforms of the Ta`if Agreement have gone in this direction, but have not been fully implemented.

In October 1989, Lebanese belligerents met in the Saudi mountain town of Taif and signed an agreement that ended fighting that killed more than 100,000 people and left much of the country in ruins. The Taif Accords renewed a sectarian system of power-sharing that was first conceived under the Ottomans and institutionalized by the National Pact on Lebanon`s Independence. Taif promised Lebanon`s warring sects a division of influence and power-sharing in exchange for laying down arms. The agreement also transferred some of the powers from the Christian president to the prime minister and parliament. Things became clearer in 1998, when the Syrian president effectively handed over the Lebanese file to Bashar. The two-decades-old power balancing game began to stagnate, caused by a number of factors. First and foremost, the fact that the succession dynamic in Syria must rest more firmly on a foundation of external resistance and firmness. One of the reasons for this was Bashar`s opposition to the Sunni old guard, which had loyally accompanied his father to power and which he believed would resist his own rise. This was in line with his growing antipathy towards Hariri, his mannerisms and what he stood for. For Bashar and his entourage, Hariri became increasingly consumable, even as the Syrian heir to the throne felt more comfortable with people like Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah.

Added to this was his strong suspicion that Hariri had penetrated deep into his father`s system and had even bought high-ranking Syrian officials, with the implicit assumption that this had been done with specific anti-Alawite intent on his part.16 21 Nadim Ladki, „The clashes bring the death rate in Lebanon to 81,“ Mail & Guardian, 12 May 2008, mg.co.za/article/2008-05-12-clashes-bring-lebanon-death-toll-to-81. Under pressure from its citizens and Western powers, Lebanon`s multi-faith leaders have vowed to abandon a power-sharing system that is widely seen as a scourge on political life. The current state of Lebanese politics comes as no surprise to political scientists, who have long recognized the risks of power-sharing. Since each sectarian party is assured of some degree of representation – the president must be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of parliament a Shia Muslim – their leaders face no real competition and are almost certainly re-elected. This deep-rooted class does not cooperate on urgent reforms. Instead, they share the spoils of the state, distributing it as best they can to their communities, but often collecting a significant share for themselves. Lebanon operates under a strong semi-presidential system. This system is unique in that it gives the president broad unilateral discretion, does not make him accountable to parliament (except for treason), but is elected by parliament. The President alone has the power to appoint the Prime Minister and may dismiss him at any time (without the participation of the Chamber of Deputies, which may also compel the President to resign). In addition, the president has the exclusive power to form a government (which must then receive a vote of confidence from parliament) and to dismiss it if he so wishes. This makes Lebanon a presidential-parliamentary system rather than a prime minister-presidential system (like France), because the president doesn`t have to live with a prime minister he doesn`t like. The historical reason for the president`s extensive powers is that his powers were merged with those of the French High Commissioner of Greater Lebanon, creating an exceptionally powerful presidency for semi-presidential systems.

[8] The entire Lebanese system of government is based on this model of power-sharing between sects, which preserves peace. The issue here is so sensitive that Hamdan and some of the protesters Foreign Policy spoke to for this article asked not to use their real names. For its many critics, the system has crippled the state and fueled corruption and inertia by cementing the power of former sectarian warlords and party barons from a handful of powerful families. The Lebanese have been critical of their power-sharing systems for almost as long as they exist – but the cascading crises of recent months have intensified calls to abolish them. The so-called confessional system shares power between the Christian and Muslim communities of the Mediterranean country, which is formally a parliamentary republic. The Lebanese conflict was not only about political sectarianism, nor about the redistribution of sectarian parts of the political system. In fact, at the beginning of the war, long before the Taif Agreement, these issues were widely discussed and more or less agreed upon.11 However, the internal dimension of the war was very sectarian. When Muslim political forces began to question the system in the 1960s, it was in an effort to rebalance power and privilege between Muslims and Christians.

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