Many thanks to everyone for all of their kind words and well wishes about the new baby: both mother and daughter are doing very well. As noted yesterday, I will not be at the Safadi/POMED event in Washington tomorrow, but you should still plan on going to hear Mona Yacoubian and Jared Cohen speak about political reform in Lebanon.
If you’d like to know what I was going to talk about, you could do worse than to read this article in The Review, which, as it happens, I managed to finish just in the nick of time.
Here’s are the first couple of paragraphs and a link to the rest of the story. Come back over here to comment.
The End of Political Confessionalism in Lebanon?
Elias Muhanna | March 4 2010
For this was to be no ordinary committee. Its task, Berri explained, would be to explore the notion of abolishing Lebanon’s system of political confessionalism, in which government posts are divided among the country’s 18 officially recognised religious communities, according to a decades-old formula. Calling the current system a source of corruption and instability, Berri – who heads the Shiite political party Amal – insisted that abolishing it was a “national duty” mandated by the Lebanese Constitution.
Berri’s rather modest proposal immediately provoked a display of unctuous outrage from Lebanon’s Christian politicians. Under the existing framework, seats in parliament are divided equally between Christians and Muslims, despite the fact that the Christian population of Lebanon has fallen well below 50 per cent over the past half-century. Replacing confessionalism with a more democratic system would almost certainly erode the number of Christian elected officials, which is why even Berri’s Christian allies wasted no time in quietly distancing themselves from the idea. Meanwhile, his opponents were outspoken in their rejection of the proposal, many pointing out the irony of a man they consider a corrupt, dyed-in-the-wool confessional leader and former warlord portraying himself as a born-again democrat. Even Lebanon’s active civil society, for whom deconfessionalism is a perennial cause célèbre, sniffed condescendingly at the initiative, leaving it to die a quiet death in a handful of newspaper editorials.
Moves to eliminate political confessionalism in Lebanon have a long history of failure, dating back to the earliest days of the republic. Leftist political parties and secularists advocated for the abolition of the system in the 1950s and 1960s, and the Taif Agreement (which ended the country’s 15-year civil war) called explicitly for the establishment of a non-confessional bicameral legislature, a demand that has gone unheeded for two decades.