Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun has called for the proclamation of a “secular state” during a televised address to mark the upcoming centenary of the Lebanese state. Political scientists are talking if the state of Lebanon will end its consociational character which is represented through its ‘confessional system’.
What is ‘consociationalism’?
- Political scientists define consociational state as a state with major internal divisions along ethnic, religious or linguistic lines. It is a stable democratic system in deeply divided societies that is based on power sharing between elites from different social groups.
- Consociational democracy exists in completely divided countries; where those differences could be seen as obstacles to establish a democratic system with full stability.
- The goals of consociationalism are mainly to achieve governmental stability, the persistence of the power-sharing arrangements, survival of democracy and avoidance of violence and conflicts. When consociationalism is organised along religious confession’s line, it is known as confessionalism as it is the case in Lebanon.
- Lebanon has 18 officially recognised religious groups that led to the establishment of its confessional political system with a power-sharing mechanism based on religious interests.
- The highest offices are proportionally reserved for representatives for different religious communities. Lebanese political parties are formed upon sectarian interest.
- Positions in the government reallocated on a similar basis. The pact also by customs allocated public offices along religious lines, with the top three political positions in the ruling troika were distributed as follow: the president of the republic a Maronite-Christian; the speaker of the parliament a Shiaa-Muslim and the prime minister a Sunni-Muslim. The Orthodox were given the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives and deputy prime minister. 128 seats in parliament are confessionally distributed and elected; each religious community has a preserved number of seats in the parliament and coalitions are formed for electoral interests.
- The rule of proportionality has also been applied to the composition of governments. The Lebanese leaders ensure that the government looks like a mini-parliament, reflecting their sectarian, regional and political structure. According to the provisions of the Lebanese Constitution, the distribution of powers and responsibilities should be applied to this coalition (sectarian representation), including the other levels in the State.