Sunday, January 07, 2007

Consociational Hezbollah

The 1943 National Pact agreed on between Lebanese patriotic confessional leaderships is different in nature from the 2003 "consociational" Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) imposed on Iraqis by occupation forces. Equally, present demands of the Lebanese opposition, pressing for a formation of a government of national unity and/or anticipated elections, are different from those in post-invasion Iraq. The Lebanese demands are in accord with existing constitutional laws, and therefore not expressed in some "insurgent"-style or Sistani-style; the Lebanese opposition isn’t calling to arms and the overthrow of the pro-Western Siniora government, and nor is it calling for a direct popular majoritarian vote for the purpose of forming a transitional government and writing a new constitution.

In their domestic political struggle, Hezbollah and its allies -- (Shi’i) Amal Movement, the (Christian) Free Patriotic Movement, and minor allies -- aren’t playing on their military and demographic assets; they’re playing the democratic game proper:

Hezbollah’s Democratic Demands

By Mohammed Ben Jelloun
January 15, 2007

By demanding a national unity government and a veto power over major decisions, Hezbollah and its allies are sticking to the consociational (multi-confessional) letter and the republican (patriotic) spirit of the Lebanese constitution.

In his Friday speech on December 1, 2006; that is, on the first sit-in day in the ongoing Lebanese Anti-Government Protest, Sheikh Abd Al-Ameer Kablan, the vice president of the Shi’i Council in Lebanon, made it clear that the opposition’s demands were of a "consociational" nature; "we are for consociational participation not majority/minority participation," he said. Unlike many commentators, indeed, Hezbollah and its allies do not contest the constitutional system in force in Lebanon; they don’t question what Stephen Zune (December 6, 2006) sees as a "colonially-imposed" and Robert Fisk (November 13, 2006) as a "French conceived" confessional representation system. To the contrary, Hezbollah and its allies are championing Lebanese-style democracy.

Equally, against all sorts of worries, fear, suspicion, and warnings about Hezbollah, this strengthened party in the aftermath of the July-August war did not advocate any majoritarian change in the system of representation – even less a violent overthrow. In fact, Hezbollah embraced radical forms of consociational democracy instead.


It will no longer do to give precedence to investigating a particular political crime over national unity, national security, and national reconstruction; it will no longer do to give priority to tracking still hypothetical murderers of former prime minister Rafik Hariri over protection against destroyers of Lebanon’s infra-structure and murderers – the assassins beyond any reasonable doubt, though powerfully protected – of more than 1.000 Lebanese civilians.

Full article >>

Read also: Hizbullah's Two Republics

The articles above cite a document signed Ali Fayyad, a politburo member and director of a think tank closely affiliated with Hezbollah, who says "the consensus rule became Hezbollah’s motto" following what the party saw as an attempt by the majority side in government to monopolize the decision-making process:

Hezbollah and the Lebanese State. Reconciling a National Strategy with a Regional Role

By Ali Fayyad
August 15, 2006


The Hezbollah’s insistence that Lebanon’s political system is a democratic consensual one based on the rule of 'con-sociationism' as stipulated by the Preamble of the Lebanese Constitution cannot be understood merely as a political response to a particular moment of deep divisions. It reflects a deep transformation in Hezbollah’s understanding of the requirements of the Lebanese political system as well as its appreciation that internal stability is central to every national project if it is to succeed in its pan-Arab and Islamic dimensions. Hezbollah’s adherence to the consensus-building principle (…) sees that the majority rule creates an unstable balance of power and is inadequate in the long run to protect the interests of all. The movement seeks therefore to invest its strength and capacities to promote balance rather than to achieve domination in the Lebanese structure.


Clearly, Hezbollah’s consociation concept is not synonymous with federation; it is rather far from federation. Nasrallah sounds here like warning of an "Iraqization" of Lebanon:

Nasrallah’s Victory Rally Speech

September 22, 2006


We announce from this place, with the blood of our martyrs; we announce, precede matters, and say, any talk in Lebanon about partition is an Israeli talk, any talk in Lebanon about federalism is Israeli talk, and any talk in Lebanon about cantons is Israeli talk. We the Lebanese, our fate, decision, and wish to God should be to live together in one state. We are against its partition and division. We are against its federalism and division into cantons.



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