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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 Raid al-Sulh. 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
49%
1985
75%
2010
59%
2012
59.5%
2017
63%
Lebanese Christians[10][4][5][6][7][8]
Year Percent
1932
51%
1985
25%
2010
41%
2012
40.5%
2017
36.2%

A Christian majority of 51% in the 1932 census – widely considered manipulated in their favor[11][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 poorer Muslim population has increased faster than the richer Christians. 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.[12] The Taif Agreement of 1989 changed the ratio of Parliament to 1:1 and reduced the power of the Maronite president.

HistoryEdit

Pursuit of Lebanese IndependenceEdit

In 1922, the French Mandate in Lebanon and Syria began where France took control of the government of what are now Lebanon and Syria separating them from the former Ottomon Empire. This was done with the intention of developing both nations into independent states with progressive laws. It did so with placing French troops within both nations in order to defend both states and their sovereignty in addition to establishing a local Lebanese and Syrian militia 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 establishes their 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 its 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.[13] 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. Due to this, when finally on the verge of attaining independence, it became difficult to find effective ways of organizing the government given the enormous religious diversity of the country. For this reason, 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 hold a place as a state of their own. ( [14]).

The Implications of the 1932 Lebanese CensusEdit

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 of 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.[15]

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.[16] 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.[17]

Introduction and ReceptionEdit

The National Pact was first introduced to the public on October 7, 1943 by Raid al-Sulh 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, they 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( [18]).

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.[19]

ImplicationsEdit

Lebanese Civil WarEdit

Though not the sole cause, scholars argue that the National Pact did play a role in the Lebanese Civil War in the building of political tensions that ultimately sparked the violence. 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 it’s maintenance of national order. [20]




ControversyEdit

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.[21] 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. ([22]) ) This was reiterated by the idea that the Maronite Christians were the most closely aligned with the French mandated 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. [23]

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. [24]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

Specific
  1. ^ Krayem, Hassan. "The Lebanese Civil War and the Taif Agreement". American University of Beirut. American University of Beirut.
  2. ^ Binder 1966: 276
  3. ^ "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). University of Durham Centre for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies. 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. ^ "Contemporary distribution of Lebanon's main religious groups". Library of Congress. 1988. Retrieved 6 December 2015.
  11. ^ Jaulin 2014, p. 251.
  12. ^ Randal 1983: 50
  13. ^ "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.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ Krayem, Hassan. "The Lebanese Civil War and the Taif Agreement". American University of Beirut. American University of Beirut.
  17. ^ Chamie, Joseph (Winter 1976–1977). "The Lebanese Civil War: An Investigation Into the Causes". World Affairs. 139 (3): 171–188. JSTOR 20671682.CS1 maint: date format (link)
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ Chamie, Joseph (Winter 1976–1977). "The Lebanese Civil War: An Investigation Into the Causes". World Affairs. 139 (3): 171–188. JSTOR 20671682.CS1 maint: date format (link)
  20. ^ Chamie, Joseph (Winter 1976–1977). "The Lebanese Civil War: An Investigation Into the Causes". World Affairs. 139 (3): 171–188. JSTOR 20671682.CS1 maint: date format (link)
  21. ^ Krayem, Hassan. "The Lebanese Civil War and the Taif Agreement". American University of Beirut. American University of Beirut.
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ Chamie, Joseph (Winter 1976–1977). "The Lebanese Civil War: An Investigation Into the Causes". World Affairs. 139 (3): 171–188. JSTOR 20671682.CS1 maint: date format (link)
  24. ^ Chamie, Joseph (Winter 1976–1977). "The Lebanese Civil War: An Investigation Into the Causes". World Affairs. 139 (3): 171–188. JSTOR 20671682.CS1 maint: date format (link)
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.
  • Randal, Jonathan. "Going All the Way: Christian Warlords, Israeli Adventurers, and the War in Lebanon". New York: The Viking Press, 1983.

External linksEdit