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Archive for the ‘Patronage Networks’ Category

From “political marginalisation” to “christian disenfranchisement”

Posted by worriedlebanese on 18/05/2013


Map of “Christian disenfranchisement” according to the FPM. The districting follows the 2009 electoral map.

Tayyar.org published a map today showing the number of Christian electors Samir Geagea has supposedly “sacrificed” when he and his parliamentary block abandoned the “Orthodox proposal” last wednesday. Interestingly enough, the electoral map the Free Patriotic Movement site chose to publish seems to assume that the 2009 districting will be followed in the coming parliamentary elections. Judging from the recent parliamentary dynamics, this scenario doesn’t seem to unrealistic. But this isn’t the purpose of this blog entry. Let’s go back to the map and see what exactly it says and what it doesn’t say.

Switching focuses
Instead of illustrating the usual grievance voiced by every single Christian political group at some given point, the map presented by tayyar.org places the emphasis on a new argument, that of the disenfranchisement of Christian voters.
That extremely common “christian” grievance that we’ve been hearing since 1992 objects to the “political marginalisation” of Christians throughout the post-war area. It revolves around the argument that too many Christian MPs are elected by an overwhelming number of muslim voters and a negligible number of christian voters. In 2005, that number accounted to 67% of Christian MPs (43 out of 64) while in 2009, the change in districting brought down the percentage to 36% (23 out of 64 MPs). This phenomenon had always existed in Lebanon, but was marginal before the civil war. Since 1992, it became the rule on account of three changes: the dramatic demographic decline of Lebanese Christians, the specific choice of districting schemes, and the strong communal mobilisation of Sunnis, Shiites and Druze behind the Future Movement, Hezbollah + Amal and the Progressive Socialist Party. These three factors meant that Christian candidates in districts with a strong muslim majority could only make it to Parliament by being co-opted by the head of the dominant muslim led/based patronage networks. One can well imagine that such a co-optation has its price, especially when one takes into account the fact that the size of each parliamentary bloc determines to a large extent its share in governmental portfolios and resources (state resources and the country’s resources through tailor-made legislation). The largest beneficiaries of this system are undoubtedly the Future Movement and the Progressive Socialist Party. During the 1990s, they mostly  co-opted “independents” who had little political influence and support within the Christian communities. But since 2005, they’ve accepted to co-opt some Christian candidates with greater Christian “credentials” or representativity.
Instead of focusing on the lack of representativity of some Christian MPs, as the FPM has consistently done since 1992, the tayyar.org map zooms in on Christian voters. This maps pinpoints the number of registered Christian voters in districts where Christian voters have little chance to influence the outcome of the elections. This brings into focus not only the districts in which Christian candidates must be co-opted by the head of the patronage networks to make it into parliament, but also those districts that are generally overlooked by Christian political parties because they elect no Christian MPs, such as Bint Jbeil, Minié-Dinnié, Sour, Saïda & Nabatieh who aggregate 51185 Christian voters. This new interest in districts that have been up to now neglected by Christian political groups can only be explained by the hopes that the Orthodox proposal had awakened and the political significance it gave to voters rendered irrelevant by the lebanese electoral system and the post-war political configuration.

Electoral virtual reality
An unsuspecting viewer might take the map “literally” and assume that the voters it situates geographically actually reside in these districts. But that would be ignoring one of the most striking particularity of the lebanese electoral system. It doesn’t simply divide the country territorially, it heavily engineers the electorate by neutralising a fundamental principle in liberal democracies: that people vote in their place of residence. The lebanese electoral system has replaced that basic electoral principle by another one: the compulsory registration by the Ministry of Interior of voters according to their “noufous” (civil registry) that states their region of “origin” (i.e. that of their forefathers or their husband’s forefathers). So the Lebanese electoral map never reflects the actual distribution of the Lebanese population but creates a totally fictitious one that doesn’t take into account neither the migrations (voluntary or forced) nor the emigration that took place during the last century. We are not talking about minor demographic changes here, but one that affected a large proportion of the resident population (Lebanese and Palestinians). Even though this phenomenon hit all Lebanese communities, it had particularly affected the Christian communities for whom displacement and emigration were mostly permanent. Interestingly enough, most of the regions this maps highlights have been particularly affected by these demographic changes. Indeed, during the wars of the 1975-1990, most of their Christian population had either voluntarily fled or was forcefully expelled from nearly all these districts (excluding the regions controlled by the Southern Lebanese Army up to 2000). Despite an official returnee policy (or possibly because of all its shortcomings and its cynicism), most of the Christians inhabitants of these regions have not returned to their towns during the post-war years. So out of the 467.479 “disenfranchised” Christian voters that the map counts up, only a small minority actually lives in these districts. Most have either emigrated or have resettled in the “Christian heartland” (roughly the districts left unaccounted & uncoloured). Consequently, their vote on a personal level has very little political meaning in a district from which they are more or less estranged; and it carries very little political weight on a collective level because these districts are dominated by Muslim led & based patronage networks who do not even seek or need their votes. The “Orthodox proposal” that this maps indirectly seeks to support would have certainly given their vote more relevance and more political weight. Except for the hassle (and cost) of loosing half a day to get to a distant polling station, these voters would have challenged politicians, inciting them to court them and to listen to their needs.

Unconsidered voters & communal blind-spots
This map only takes into account Christian voters and totally ignores non-Christian voters who suffer from the same problem (even if it’s on a smaller scale). It reveals the extent of the FPM’s communal navel-gazing. This party is surely not the only lebanese political group to suffer from this fixation. It’s actually widely shared across the political spectrum dominated by communal leaders who claim to represent and to cater to their community’s interests. But in this particular instance, it underlines the extreme short-sightedness of a political party that doesn’t realise the importance of looking beyond its communal group even when lobbying for an extremely radical change in the electoral law that needs the backing from all communal groups.

Posted in Discourse Analysis, Idiosyncrasy 961, Lebanon, Levantine Christians, Patronage Networks, Political behaviour | Leave a Comment »

A brief history of the Christian/Muslim “parity rule” since Taef

Posted by worriedlebanese on 23/02/2013

Instead of reinterpreting our State institutions (presenting an extremely centralised State as a federal one), or reworking all the communal aspects of our daily lives into a coherent and integrated system (which it’s not), I will try to limit myself to the “parity rule” as the basic legal/political challenge being discussed in parliament today. Justifying or disapproving it isn’t really relevant. It’s a basic principle in our constitution that takes precedent over deconfessionalisation (which is meant to annul it in the future). To understand this rule fully one should situate it at three different times: During the Taef conference (1989), during the Syrian mandate for Lebanon (1990-2005), and after Lebanon’s third independence (2005-).

    • The parity rule under Taef. This rule was established as a peacebuilding mechanism, a confidence building scheme to ensure that “communal interests” would be protected, and that there will be no “junior” or “senior” partner; no ghaleb or maghloub. The parity rule within parliament was meant to translate and to ensure the principle of “equal partnership” between Christians and Muslims, and to defuse any kind of “demographic threat”. It is meant to make the question of communal overrepresentation irrelevant. The wording of article 24 of the Lebanese constitution makes this extremely clear (equal numbers between Christian and Muslims, proportionality within each group).
    • The parity rule under the Syrian Mandate: As we well know, the Syrian authorities ruling over Lebanon modified the rules of the game. They actually upheld the principle of ghaleb and maghloub, and (rightly) saw in the Christian community a threat to their hold on Lebanon, sidelining its major political parties by all possible means (threats, criminal procedures and the manipulation of the electoral law that ensured that most Christian MPs could only enter the Parliament as junior partners of the Syrian-allied Muslim-based patronage networks). The principle of equal partnership between Christians and Muslims was thus undermined. The parity rule was not only stripped of its original meaning, but became a mechanism used to sideline Christian political aspirations. As a result: Four major muslim parties (three of which were headed by warlords) dominated the political landscape: Their control over Christian voices increased their share of parliamentary seats and governmental seats; thus increasing their share of the cake (i.e. State resources). And so grew their patronage networks within the State and their control of social, economical and cultural institutions. On the Christian side, the Syrian authorities supported three minor patronage networks: one headed by a Maronite in Northern Lebanon, one headed by a Greek-Orthodox in Central Mount-Lebanon and one headed by a Greek-Catholic in the Central Beqaa. The parity rule became a means of creating Senior and Junior partners in Lebanese politics, both of which were communally defined.
    • The parity rule after the third independence: In 2005, an informal mechanism was used by two of the major patronage networks (Mustaqbal & Ishtiraki) to limit the communal sidelining effects of the electoral law and “restore” a better participation of Christian parties. But this informal mechanism meant that these political parties were co-opted into the game by stronger allies, and given their lack of resources (they couldn’t count on sturdy patronage networks, or foreign financial aid or military support), they could only hope to become junior partners in parliament and government. This was confirmed in practice throughout the legislature.
      In 2009, the new electoral law allowed a substantial number of Christian MPs to enter parliament with little need of backing from the prominent muslim-based patronage networks. This was done through a formal mechanism, an alteration of the electoral law that saw the restoration of old constituencies: Zgharta, Batroun, Bcharré, Koura, Baabda, Jezzine, Achrafié. But this wasn’t enough to change the basic dynamics between Senior and Junior partners, as the practice of both the Hariri government and the Miqati government has shown. It’s only by taking into account the disparity between the promise of the “parity rule” and the way that it is practiced that one can understand the general consensus among Christian parties supporting the “Orthodox proposal”.

But is this reform enough to fulfil the promise of the Taef agreement of equal partnership between Christians and Muslims? Is there a better one? One thing is for sure, these questions cannot be answered by any kind of normative reasoning. But even before getting to the answers, these questions should be reformulated in order to take into account the dynamics of our political regime (and the way state institutions and official mechanisms have been “reinterpreted” by the political class):
– What does true representation of Muslims and Christians mean?
– Do the patronage networks truly represent the interests and aspirations of the respective communities they claim to serve?
– How do these patronage networks operate? How do they manage parliamentary elections? 
– How would the proposed electoral law affect them?

Posted in Idiosyncrasy 961, Intercommunal affairs, Lebanon, Levantine Christians, Patronage Networks, Pluralism, Political behaviour, Politics, Reform | Leave a Comment »

Gerrymandering parading as reform

Posted by worriedlebanese on 22/02/2013

Lebanon_Parliament_Building_180Let’s face it, reforming an electoral law a couple of months before election date is just an advanced form of gerrymandering. You can’t expect a legislature less than six months before it disbands to vote for a new electoral law based on abstract principles and conviction. The parliamentarians that are reforming the law that will influence their reelection are doing it out of sheer interest. And when they’re doing it a couple of months before elections, you can bet that their eyes are riveted on election polls. The worst part of the deal is that by leaving an uncertainty surrounding the law (and we’re not talking minor details here; they’re still discussing the shape of constituencies), the outgoing parliamentarians are blatantly discriminating against their potential rivals by preventing them from organising their campaigns. How could potential candidates start their campaign, or even prepare for it when they don’t even know under what conditions they will be running!?
The story gets even more absurd when one looks at the way Lebanese civil society and its favourite parasites, the embassies, are dealing with the whole business. Some NGOs are actually still campaigning for electoral reform. Embassies are either publicly or privately voicing their preferences. Analysts are discussing the reforms suggested by parliamentarians as if they were siting in a philosophy class: they speak of general principles while they should be looking into electoral costs for incoming and outgoing candidates.
I had vowed a couple of weeks ago not to let myself get dragged into this whole business, not to enter any debate surrounding electoral reform, not to play into their game. Any discussion surrounding electoral reform at this time of the year endorses one way or another gerrymandering. Two days ago I broke that vow. I gave in. I sanctioned on my very small level, among my virtual community (of readers) the blatant misconduct of our parliamentarians aimed at manipulating the results of this summer’s parliamentary elections. The crooks in Séħit el Nıjmé won again.

Now that I’ve conceded defeat, I might as well indulge in a bit of analysis. When the damage is done, it’s a pity not to wander through the ruins. But no worries, I won’t repeat what I’ve been saying in French. You’re in for something new, I hope.

probabilityArticle 2: A communal solution to a communal problem?
Quis, quid, quando, ubi, cur, quem ad modum, quibus adminiculis
Well, basically, we have a bunch of MPs belonging to different political factions who had at an earlier date pushed for very different electoral systems (majority system with medium size constituencies or smaller constituencies, or dual slates with proportional representation) drop their previous proposals and coalesce to push for another system that was earlier disparaged by all. At a closer look, we discover that all these MPs belong to Christian political parties, some are represented in government and the others are part of the opposition. Now what’s their problem? and how did it happen that they suddenly agreed on that point.
The communal story (انتقام المنبوز). To make a long story short, the political parties that supported the “orthodox proposal” in the mixed commissions had been excluded from the political game under the Syrian mandate for Lebanon (1990-2005). After the Syrian army’s withdrawal from Lebanon, they pushed their way back into the political game, first in Parliament then in Government. Their integration back into Lebanese politics was largely determined by their alliances with four political forces (patronage networks/communal based parties speaking in the name of the three principle muslim communities): the Shiite Amal and Hezbollah parties, the Sunni Moustaqbal movement and the Druze Progressive Socialist Party. Up to 2007 they formed the “quadripartite alliance” (الحلف الرباعي), but since this alliance split up, I’ll refer to them as the BIG FOUR.
What was true before 2005 is still true today. And the reason largely lies in the electoral system in which a great deal of Christian MPs get into Parliament through votes given to them by Muslim voters who follow their communal leaders. This dependence on Muslim communal leaders was reduced in 2009’s parliamentary election through the restoration of past constituencies with a numerically strong christian electorate. But even then, the Christian parties could only become junior partners. The first reason to that was their number (over 9 political formations: Free Patriotic Movement, Lebanese Forces, Kataeb, Marada, Tashnag, Ramgavar, National Liberal Party, Popular Bloc, National Bloc, Kornet Chehwan Gathering). They had to be co-opted by the four dominating muslim-based patronage networks in many constituencies, and into government. The Big Four could choose (the most compliant) amongst them, or they could count on rival Christian MPs who were directly dependent on them. The latter could be used to stack government seats so they could serve the interests of these patronage networks (in exchange of some spoils that these Christian MPs or ministers could distribute to their popular base). Moreover, these Christian political parties could only count on very small and fragile patronage networks, and hardly any foreign financial aid (or military aid… let’s not forget that politicians in our neck of the woods are ready to do all that it takes). So basically, electoral reform is the only way in which Christian political party can assert their autonomy and claim the right to be equal partners in parliament and government. They pushed for the 2009, but they soon discovered its limits, and now they seek to reclaim a true parity in political representation of Christian and Muslims in Parliament which only the “Orthodox proposal” (or one similar to it) can ensure.

imagesCommunal electoral colleges: A leap into the unknown?
The chances of  “article 2” becoming law are not very high. Hezbollah and Amal are not too keen about it and Mustaqbal (Future movement) and Ishtiraki  (PSP) are openly hostile to it and are ready to do all that it takes to bloc it (and for good reason, it could diminish their political weight in parliament by half). Could it be because the Big Four are shocked by its “sectarian” nature? I very much doubt that. The two former parties have nothing to gain from it, and the two latter have a lot to lose from it. So basically the Christian MPs have to come up with a particularly clever strategy to convince the Big Four or at least two of the Big Four to go on with this reform. Then they should cross their fingers that the Constitutional court won’t strike it down (The President or 10 MPs are very likely to refer it to the Constitutional Court if it becomes law): article 2 not only breaks away from our electoral tradition but it contradicts the interpretation give to at least two articles in our constitution (article 27 et article 95), and the “spirit” of the Preamble. So the most likely effect “article 2” can have on our next elections is extending the discussion period within parliament (which effects the fairness of the elections because it advantages outgoing MPs), which could very possibly result in the postponement of the elections (which seems to benefit all our parliamentarians). But let’s forget all that and imagine for a moment that article 2 became law and the elections proceeded according to it. So we’ll ask ourselves who this law could hurt and what it probable outcomes will be.
Who does the communal electoral colleges hurt? It certainly is very frustrating for many of my fellow countrymen and countrywomen to have their choice restricted to people belonging to their own community. But does it actually harm them? Not really. The political parties that they support could find apt candidates in all communities to run in the different electoral colleges. The “orthodox proposal” doesn’t prevent the Green party or the Democratic Renewal, the Baath, the Syrian National Social Party, the Democratic Left, the Communist Party or any other cross-communal formation from running in several or all electoral colleges. And the proportional system will increase their chances of having more candidates. On the other hand, “the orthodox proposal” will certainly hurt two members of the Big Four: The Mustaqbal and the Ishtiraki. Both parties assemble vast cross-communal parliamentary blocs (Lebanon First and Democratic Gathering) around them by gathering a large number of Christian MPs (many of which are clients in the same way their Muslim MPs are). These blocs allow them to increase their share of the cake in allocation of government portfolios, administrative positions and resources. The “orthodox proposal” will undoubtedly render their Christian allies more autonomous which could result in the break up of these blocs… and the shrinking of their share. Moreover, on a symbolic level, this law will also reduce the way their power is projected on a certain territory. This is particularly true for Mustaqbal in Beirut, and for the PSP in southern Mount Lebanon that it has relabelled “The Mountain”. But it also holds for Hezbollah and Amal. Communal electoral colleges instead of territorial constituencies reduces the symbolic hold on a territory that the PSP, Amal, Hezbollah, but also Marada and the Kataeb  had conquered militarily during the 1980s. 
What are the expected results of communal electoral colleges?
The dominant view is that this reform will increase “sectarianism”. I won’t waste too much time on this snowclone that is used disparagingly to qualify the worst qualities one finds in others, but never in oneself. In electoral terms, if by that we mean increasing the dominance of communal parties in parliament, well, I really don’t see how that would be possible for the muslim communities who have been hijacked by the Big Four. As for the Christians, their parties supported this “orthodox proposal” to start with!
What other effect could this reform have? Actually plenty. For one, no party in parliament could ever boast after that to be more representative than another in terms of communal backing. The fact that each community votes for its own certainly would show in terms of votes who is its “biggest” spokesman, but it shakes up the hold that spokesman (or spokeswoman, let’s be optimistic) has on other MPs belonging to his parliamentary group. The “orthodox proposal” actually threatens the cross-communal elite supposed to foster cross-communal harmony by changing the way cross-communal alliances are done. Instead of taking place between two members of the elite (belonging to different communities) before the election, it will take place after the elections, in Parliament. So it shifts the responsibility of inter-communal harmony from the elite to the voter. Is that such a dangerous move?
Another expected result would be the diversification of political parties within parliament. The Christians MPs would no longer be the only ones divided into different groups (that are paradoxically rather hard to distinguish from one another on ideological grounds). Others communities would see the same result due to proportional representation. Salafis would be able to enter the Parliament, displacing their grievances from the streets to the Chamber of deputies. The Muslim brotherhood will no longer need the Mustaqbal to enter government. The Mustaqbal won’t be able to crush the Ahbash in Beirut any longer… The same applies to the Druze and the Shiites. The mahdalé that Joumblatt set up in Southern Mount Lebanon and the one that Amal & Hezbollah operate in the South won’t operate anymore. Talal Arslan won’t be humiliated every time, and who knows, the Yazbakis might even choose to follow another leader. Sheikh Mohammad al Hajj Hassan will probably enter parliament, and so will Ahmad al-Assad…

Posted in Idiosyncrasy 961, Intercommunal affairs, Islam, Lebanon, Levantine Christians, Patronage Networks, Pluralism, Political behaviour, Reform, Speculation | Leave a Comment »

جمهورية المزارع في حداد

Posted by worriedlebanese on 20/10/2012

Hier, la République des fermes a perdu un de ses plus valeureux fonctionnaires, un haut-fonctionnaire de la République, le fidèle fonctionnaire de l’une de ses fermes. Wissam al-Hassan a été assassiné alors qu’il exerçait ses fonctions au sein de la République, au sein de la ferme à laquelle il appartenait, celle qui se proclame fidèle à la mémoire de Hariri (Père et/ou fils) et que certains assimilent au Moustaqbal, celle qui est revendiquée par le XIV Mars® et que se sont arrogés hier les obstructeurs de routes (au nom de la communauté sunnite).
Wissam al-Hassan dirigeait un service des renseignements “ad hoc”, celui des Forces de sécurité intérieure (FSI), façonnée à la mode baathiste, sans assises ni encadrements légaux, à la va-vite, pour répondre à des besoins urgents:  la méfiance qui régnait entre les différentes fermes du pays, le pouvoir attribué à d’autres fermes sur les services sécuritaires existants, le danger (bien réel) de mort qui menaçait les personnalités du XIV Mars® et la défense de ce qui était tenu pour sacré, le châtiment des auteurs de l’attentat du 14 février 2005.

Nombreux sont ceux qui accusent la Syrie de ce crime, de la même manière qu’ils accusaient Israël jusqu’en 2005 de tous les crimes. C’est certainement vraisemblable, mais peut-être pas vrai. Là n’est pas la question. Attendons les résultats de l’enquête et continuons à nous méfier de ceux qui nous ont déjà fait du mal. Rappelons-nous que cette désignation d’un ennemi comme responsable de tous les maux est devenu un réflexe si profondément ancré dans nos moeurs politiques que toute enquête devenait inutile; on ne faisait même pas semblant. Alors on a simplifié l’équation: attentat = accusation + déblayage immédiat + retour à la normalité. À quoi bon dépenser tant d’efforts pour prouver ce qui allait de soi. Une partie des libanais l’a toujours fait à l’encontre d’Israël, l’autre partie à l’encontre de la Syrie. Et il est possible de passer du premier groupe au second, et inversement. De toute manière le mécanisme est le même.
Hier comme aujourd’hui, politiciens et éditorialistes s’agitent, pointent leur doigt accusateur, attisent la haine, agitent les franges les plus fragiles de la société et embrigadent ceux qui cherchent un semblant de confort dans des certitudes factices. Ils essayent de raviver la République pourfendue des émotions qui a vu le jour en mars 2005. Mais une chose a changé depuis… l’enquête se poursuit… spontanément. Le bloc urbain qui entoure le lieu de l’attentat est toujours bouclé, des enquêteurs poursuivent leur collecte d’indices. Les moeurs de nos politiciens et journalistes n’ont manifestement pas changé, mais celles de certains de nos services sécuritaires si. Et nous devons en partie ce changement à Wissam al-Hassan.

Il serait facile pour moi et pour ceux qui me ressemblent de céder à la tentation de balayer cet assassinat, cet attentat ciblé, en se concentrant sur ses dégâts collatéraux. Après tout Wissam al-Hassan faisait partie d’une ferme qui nous est étrangère, et à laquelle nous ne nous identifions d’aucune manière (ou contre laquelle nous avons longtemps été particulièrement hostiles). Alors que l’attentat a eu lieu dans un quartier que nous habitons ou avons habité, à deux pas d’un grand nombre de nos proches (famille et amis) et de visages familiers. Sans aucun doute, j’aurai du mal dans quelques années à me rappeler du nom de la victime que cette explosion avait pour cible. Mais je n’oublierai jamais l’attentat en lui même: ni la transformation apocalyptique de ce quartier si familier, ni le bruit des éclats de verre que l’on balayait sur chaque étage, dans chacun de ses immeubles, jusqu’à tard dans la nuit.

En écoutant les discours qui pleuvent aujourd’hui autour de cet assassinat, je pourrais me répéter que Wissam al-Hassan était le fidèle fonctionnaire de l’une des nombreuses fermes de mon pays. Il en était même devenu l’un de ses symboles. Cette vérité est incontestable. Mais le pas entre le réalisme et le cynisme est vite franchi. Tâchons de ne pas l’enjamber sans même s’en rendre compte. Est-ce que cette appartenance efface son professionnalisme, son dévouement à sa fonction, son courage? Qualités que même ses adversaires politiques lui concèdent. Est-ce que cette appartenance efface la douleur que sa disparition a provoqué parmi ses proches, sa femme et ses enfants réfugiés depuis un certain temps à Paris, ses amis, ses collègues et même les membres de sa ferme (ou ceux qui s’y identifient) qui se sentent directement visés et affaiblis par sa disparition? Certainement pas.

Wissam al-Hassan était un compatriote. Il était fonctionnaire dans un État morcelé en de nombreuses fermes. Il a servi son pays comme il le pouvait, à travers les allégeances qu’il avait, avec les convictions qui étaient les siennes. Il a été assassiné dans ses fonctions, en raison de ses fonctions. La république est en deuil, et elle l’est justement. Elle l’est même doublement, pour avoir perdu un de ses hauts fonctionnaires, et pour avoir perdu tout sens républicain face au cynisme des uns et à la récupération des autres.

Posted in Journalism, Lebanon, Patronage Networks, Political behaviour, Version Francophone, Violence | 2 Comments »

A qui confier la direction générale de la Sûreté générale?

Posted by worriedlebanese on 14/07/2011

Suite au décès de Wafic Jezzini, le poste de Directeur de la Sûreté Générale est vacant. En cela il n’a rien d’extraordinaire. Il ne fait que rejoindre la centaine de postes vacants qui attendent que le Conseil des ministres procède aux nominations nécessaires pour les remplir… Et cela fait de nombreuses années que le Conseil des Ministres remet cette question en raison de la complexité des négociations qui entourent cette question. En effet, non seulement il faut respecter les quotas confessionnels (ce qui en fait devrait faciliter les nominations), mais il faut prendre en compte les allocations de parts entre les réseaux clientélistes et les forces politiques.

La particularité de la vacance du poste de Directeur de la Sûreté Générale tient au fait que les politiciens se disputent aujourd’hui son attribution confessionnelle. Jusqu’en 1998, cette fonction revenait à un maronite qui était généralement nommé par le Président de la République. En 1998, Emile Lahoud a soutenu la candidature de Jamil Sayed à ce poste, alors même qu’il était chiite.

Notons que l’accord de Taef a aboli les quotas confessionnels à l’intérieur de l’ensemble de l’administration publique excepté les fonctions de première catégorie. Toutefois, les règles en cette matière ne sont pas claires. Faut-il suivre le système du partage proportionnel ou celui de la parité? Par ailleurs, aucune disposition ne prévoit des sièges réservés. Et il a même été question de procéder à un système de rotation confessionnelle des sièges. Toutefois, ceci complique les négociations et peut perturber l’action des réseaux clientélistes. D’ailleurs, à ma connaissance, le principe de la rotation n’a été appliqué qu’une seule fois : au début des années 1990 un recteur chiite pour l’Université Libanaise, après une série de recteurs maronites (et un recteur Grec Catholique). Mais la rotation s’est arrêtée-là, et ce poste revient désormais à un Chiite proche de la mouvance Amal. Cela dit, ce qui est intéressant dans le cas de Jamil Sayed est qu’il n’était appuyé par aucun patron libanais, d’ailleurs il entretenait de mauvais rapports avec Rafik Hariri et Nabih Berry, et mêmes ses relations avec Emile Lahoud n’étaient pas toujours au beau fixe en raison de son autonomie et de son pouvoir.

Dans le cas qui nous intéresse, les rumeurs veulent que le Président de la République et le Patriarche Maronite réclament aujourd’hui le retour de ce poste aux “maronites”. Michel Aoun a quant-à-lui déclaré mardi qu’on lui “réclame de récupérer le poste” mais que cela devait être débattu avec “ses” amis, c’est-à-dire ses alliés Chiites, et plus spécialement Nabih Berry qu’il a d’ailleurs nommé. Par ailleurs, le Vice-Président de la Chambre, Farid Makari, et le Vice-Président du Conseil des ministres, Samir Moqbel, semblent tous les deux appuyer l’attribution de ce poste à un Orthodoxe. Alors que d’après le quotidien Al-Liwa’, le Hezbollah proposent à ce poste le Brigadier Général Abbas Ibrahim (numéro 2 du deuxième bureau), proposition que rejette Nabih Berry. Pour compliquer encore plus les choses, le quotidien Daily Star rapporte que Nabih Berryaccepte d’attribuer ce poste à un maronite, à condition que le chef de l’armée soit attribué à un Chiite. Al-Liwa’ nous dit que le raisonnement de Nabih Berry était qu’il existe trois positions sécuritaires importante au Liban: celle de chef de l’armée, de directeur des Forces de Sécurité Intérieur (FSI) et de directeur de la Sûreté Générale. Et qu’il était donc normal que la distribution se fasse entre les trois premières communautés. L’approche “sectorielle” de la répartition communautaire est intéressante. Elle ressemble à celle qui a lieu à l’intérieur de l’Université Libanaise et à l’intérieur du corps diplomatique. A la seule différence que dans ces derniers cas, on est en présence d’un même “corps”, alors que les services de sécurité libanais sont complètement éclatés et sont soumis à des hiérarchies distinctes. Par ailleurs, le raisonnement du Président de la Chambre ne tient pas compte de trois autres postes sécuritaires: chef du deuxième bureau, directeur du service de renseignement des des FSI et le Directeur des Forces de Sécurité de l’Etat. Ceci ramène les postes sécuritaires sensibles à 6…

Posted in Discourse, Intercommunal affairs, Lebanon, Patronage Networks, Version Francophone | Leave a Comment »

The metamorphoses of the Jumblatt bloc

Posted by worriedlebanese on 13/07/2011

A couple of weeks ago, Walid Jumblatt announced the dismantling of the “Democratic Gathering”, a parliamentary bloc that he’s been heading for over a decade. He also revealed the creation of a new parliamentary bloc called  the “National Struggle” grouping the 7 MPs belonging to the Democratic Gathering who nominated Nagib Miqati to the premiership: Walid Jumblatt, Ghazi Aridi, Akram Chehayeb, Wael Bou Faour, Alaeddine Terro, Nehme Tohme and Elie Aoun. Three of these MPs were later to become minister in the Second Miqati government: Wael Bou Faour (minister of Social Affairs), Ghazi Aridi (minister of Public Works) and Alaeddine Terro (minister of the Displaced). Although his parliamentary bloc shrank by more than a third, Walid Jumblatt not only secured the same number of seats in the new government, but also received an extra portfolio (while retaining the two portfolios he had). In fact, his bloc represent today a little more than 5% of the Parliament, but it also makes up 10% of the ruling coalition’s parliamentary weight. So being awarded 10% of the council of ministers (3 out of 30 ministers) is arithmetically pretty fair.

Looking into Walid Jumblatt’s parliamentary bloc can actually tell us a lot about lebanese politics and how formal and non-formal politics interplay.

Territories: political conversion of military conquests 

At the beginning of the millennium, Walid Jumblat’s parliamentarians hailed from four administrative districts: Baabda, Aley, the Chouf (Shuf) and Beirut. The first three districts roughly constitute the territory that Jumblat’s militia had militarily conquered in the 1983 in Southern Mount-Lebanon. As for Beirut, Jumblat had actually conquered part of it but lost that territory in 1985 during the “flag war” (حرب العلم). The fact that his “electoral territory” matched the territories he had conquered militarily in the 1980s invites us to look into the political dynamics that converted military conquest to political gain. Let’s look into the electoral process. Up to 2005, the whole electoral process was managed by the Syrian occupation forces. First, they set the formal rules by adapting the electoral law to their needs. This meant systematic gerrymandering to favour their local allies. Moreover, they also intervened in the process through pressure on candidates, on political alliances and through various techniques of electoral fraud (meddling with voter registration, intimidation at polls, improper vote counting, and pressure on judges surveying the elections). In other words, the Syrian occupation forces set the rules of the electoral game through formal and non-formal methods. Much has been said about the way they interfered through formal methods, that is legal rules. Less has been written about the informal rules that they had set: the way they encouraged “traditional” families and “traditional dynamics” in some regions, and fought against them in others… the way they allowed some allies to dominate one constituency, and refused them access to other regions…

Figure a. The Evolution of the Jumblatt Bloc

In Jumblat’s case, the Syrian allowed him to keep the territory he had conquered during the “war of the mountain” (حرب الجبل), but refused him any expansion in the historical heartland of the Druze, Wadi al-Taym (divided into two constituencies, Rashaya and Hasbaya in which the Druze are a minority but are awarded two MPs). They allowed him to control all public services given to that region (water, education, electricity, permits), gave him full control on the returnees process through which he managed the return of the christian population that he had expelled, allotted him most of the Christian MPs in “his” constituency but forcing him to “share” it with one rival within his community, one that he had a say in choosing, a cousin of his Talal Arslan.
If we look into the makeup of his bloc, we notice that some members are actually part of other political parties or forces: Bassem Sabaa, Antoine Andraos and Mohammad Hajjar are actually part of the Future Movement network, and Antoine Ghanem is a member of the Kataeb Party. This actually shows how MPs are negoticated between communal leaders. It also shows the importance of symbolics. By keeping these MPs in his bloc, Jumblatt reinforces symbolically the territorial dimension of his power. It also shows that “size matters” in parliament, not for voting purposes, but as a reflection of the importance of the leader, his political weight.
As for the communal demographics, we notice that his bloc in 2000 was in majority Christian. Walid Jumblatt actually benefitted one one hand from three features of our electoral law: “communal representation” that allots specific seats to specific communities, Christian MP distribution in constituencies with a Muslim majority, and voter registration according to “origin” instead of residency. And on the other hand, he benefitted from the Syrian occupation forces policy of silencing the Christian opposition, which translated into supporting local christian patrons in Christian constituencies, and distributing Christian MPs between its allied Muslim patrons in mixed constituencies.
In 2005, the Syrian regime were no longer here to enforce its informal rules. So we find Walid Jumblatt conquering a new constituency, Western Beqaa-Rashaya, not militarily but electorally, through his alliance with the Future Movement, who also benefited from Syria’s withdrawal by expanding to new constituencies through communal hyper-mobilisation. This alliances awarded him two new seats, one Druze and one Christian, in exchange for the Christian seats he had to cede to his Christian allies, the Kataeb party and the Lebanese Forces.

In 2009, Walid Jumblatt looses for the first time a constituency, that of Baabda due to changes in the electoral law and the collapse of the Quadripartite alliance. He owes three other constituencies to his alliances with the Future Movement. In Beirut, the communal configuration and the dominance of the Future Movement over the Sunni community is so important that it leaves Walid Jumblatt with very little weight in determining the fate in these elections. As for the Chouf (Registered voters in 2009: 68 561 various Christians, 58 057 Druze,  51 417 Sunni) and Western-Beqaa (Registered voters:  57 751 Sunni, 17 949 Druze, 16 997 Shiite, 29 789 various Christians), neither party would have made it without the support of the other, as the electoral results have shown.

What future for this shrinking and fragile bloc?

The “National Struggle” bloc is by far the most fragile bloc in parliament. As we have see in the two figures, in the past 7 years, it lost over half of its MPs, shrinking from 16 to 7. Moreover, 2 out of its 7 MPs owe their election to the Future Movement, and any opposition from the Future Movement would endanger 4 other seats, including that of Walid Jumblatt (that an alliance with Aoun’s FPM could in that case save).

Figure b. Jumblatt Bloc by Electoral/Administrative district

Now let’s look into Walid Jumblatt’s strong points. He is the undisputed communal leader of the Druze Community. The other two contenders, Talal Arslan and Wi’am Wahab, are no serious rivals. He controls his community’s communal institutions. He has established strong relations with Syrian and Israeli Druze, making him an international communal leader. He also inherited his father’s international network, that he has nurtured even though he has no longer any leftist credential. Walid Jumblatt heads a patronage network that enjoys complete authority on all public services in “his” districts (the ones he had conquered militarily back in the 1980s, I wonder if he has been working on extending them in the Wady al-Taym districts), and he has dominated the Druze employment in the Public Service for over 30 years. So basically, it is in the interest of a Druze voter to vote for Walid Jumblatt’s bloc, because this choice will offer him the greatest advantages. Since his ethnic cleansing of southern Mount Lebanon, he he has positioned himself as the sole defender of Druze interests. Through his leadership, he has given the community a sense of autonomy and security. Because of the absence of a prominent Druze figure within the state institutions, Walid Jumblatt somewhat embodies druze interests.
Moreover, with the current hyper-mobilisation of the Sunni and the Shiite communities, and the communal expansion of both communities into Druze areas, the new communal fears of Druze are not directed toward Christians like they were for the past two centuries, but towards the two major Muslim communities. These elements reinforce Druze communal mobilisation, and the backing of Walid Jumblatt even if his political base disagrees with his political positioning.
So basically, Walid Jumblatt has nothing to fear from within his community. Like many other communal patrons, he has managed to neutralise the institutional norms meant to encourage internal competition within each community. However, his support of the Miqati government is unsustainable. In two years, he will be facing elections and he has very little chances of keeping his seats or constituencies without the support of the Future Movement. This is where the division of his former parliamentary bloc might come in handy. Reuniting the two parts will allow him to reclaim his place as an ally of the Future Movement while maintaining his ties with at least one Shiite party.

Posted in Intercommunal affairs, Lebanon, Patronage Networks, Political behaviour, Speculation | 1 Comment »

Talal Arslan’s resignation remembered

Posted by worriedlebanese on 28/06/2011

A friend of mine under another post asked me to comment on Talal Arslan’s resignation. Here are my thoughts on that issue, ones I have actually already expressed on facebook:

Minutes after the announcement of the new government, Talal Arslan resigned from the government. This resignation highlights a lot questions surrounding the whole formation process. Who negotiated with whom and on what. Very little “information” was “leaked” to the media during those 5 months that separated the designation of the PM and the announcement of the government. There was a lot of bickering and accusations, but very little information. So one can legitimately wonder why Talal Arslan waited till the announcement of the government to announce his resignation. The timing actually begs many questions. We will look into them before analysing the arguments he used to justify his move.

1. Didn’t Arslan know he was allotted a “state ministry” before the announcement of the government? A state ministry is Lebanon is one that carries no portfolio. In other words, the Minister of State has no ministry working for him/her. Some ministry of states can actually have a “specialized office” that functions as a small ministry (that’s the case of OMSAR, the Office of the Minister of State for Administrative Reform). The only thing this position entitles the designated minister is a vote in the Council of Ministry. Politically, this is quite meaningful because the Council of Ministers is, constitutionally, the official executive power in Lebanon. However, the reality of the executive power lies elsewhere (since Rafic Hariri expanded the Prime Minister’s position, and the Speaker plays a key role within the state administration). So, effectively, the position of a Minister of State carries very little leverage on the practical level (that is for access to state resources and state employment). I personally doubt that Arlsan wasn’t informed of the fact that he wasn’t given a portfolio. The political class has always been disdainful toward the weak, but I don’t think the Prime Minister or Arslan’s allies didn’t inform him of the result of their negotiation. But then, who know…
2. Even if he did know, was there any other way for him to reject this allocation? Arslan heads one of the smallest blocs in parliament, one that he owes entirely to his rival within his community (Jumblatt) and to his allies from other communities (FPM & Amal). This puts him in no position to negotiate with his allies or rival.
3. Why was he allocated a ministry without a portfolio? His political weight doesn’t entitle him to more. This allocation actually reflects his standing within his community and within the Lebanese political class. Unfortunately for him, this position doesn’t offer him any perspective to change his situation and reinforce himself politically.
4. What does the resignation offer him? It “safeguards his honor”. As the heir of the Arslan house, granting him a ministry of state was in a way demeaning. To put things into perspective, we have to remind ourselves that the “Arslan house” is the supposed “traditional” rival of the Jumblatt house, and that Kamal Jumblatt actually neutralized its power base during the 1958 civil war. Let’s also keep in mind that Talal Arslan’s mother is a Jumblatt and Walid Jumblatt’s mother is an Arslan.  .

Saving Face in the most inelegant of ways
Now, let’s first look into how he justified his move. Here’s what Talal Arslan declared upon resigning:

” آسف للتعاطي غير اللائق بما يسمى بوزارات سيادية وغير سيادية وبالتمييز العنصري فلا يمكن ان اوافق بان يُعامل الدروز او الكاثوليك او العلويين او الاقليات بهذا الشكل.”

“I’m sorry about the inappropriate way of dealing with the so-called top ministries and other ministries, and about the ethnic discrimination. I cannot condone the way the Greek-Catholics, the Druzes, the Alawites or the minorities have been treated”.

His argument doesn’t hold. In the allocation of portfolios, Nagib Miqati has actually treated these communities in the exact way Saad Hariri had in 2009, with Fattoush replacing Pharaon, Manjian replacing Ogassapian, Arslan replacing Abou Faour… In both governments, minorities (i.e. Latin and/or Protestants) were not represented, and Alawites have never been represented in any government in Lebanon.
Talal Arslan actually points out a real problem (and challenge) in Lebanese politics, but his real problem with Miqati is that he didn’t give him a portfolio.

Last week, Miqati and Arslan agreed that the seat that Arslan relinquished would remain in the hands of Arslan’s party. Al-Liwa’ reported that the position will probably be filled by Arslan’s brother-in-law, Marwan Kheireddine… This solution is quite an interesting one. It shows the lack of political imagination (and innovation) within our political class. A possible solution would have been to split one the ministries and hand a part of it to Arslan. He could have been awarded the Ministry of Municipalities and Decentralization (that could have FINALLY been detached from the Ministry of Interior), or the Ministry of Emigrants (post that Talal Arslan already had in 1998 and that could have been detached from the ministry of Foreign Affairs, though I doubt that Nabih Berri would have agreed to that). It also confirms the extent to which family ties have become the most secure relationship in contemporary lebanese politics.

Posted in Discourse Analysis, Diversity, Intercommunal affairs, Lebanon, Patronage Networks | Leave a Comment »

Lebanese IPBs: Informal political bodies

Posted by worriedlebanese on 19/06/2011

On Monday, the Lebanese Presidential palace announced the formation of a new government. The following day, the two political groups that were the most affected by the governmental change convened: The Future Movement called its MPs, the Free Patriotic Movement called its Ministers… These two parties were undoubtedly entering a new phase in their history. One formation convened a fragment of the parliament while the other convened a fragment of the government, each to comfort its new role, respectively that of an “opposition party” and that of a “governmental party”. That’s what they announced to the Media on Tuesday, and that’s what the press reported on Wednesday… We’ll try to look beyond these slogans and headlines to see how things could eventually evolve for those two parties. This analysis can only take into consideration internal political dynamics that can be expected. It won’t take into consideration the multiple and unpredictable possibilities that can come out from the investigation into the Hariri Assassination conducted by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, nor the ongoing revolt/repression in Syria.

A para-parliamentary structure

The Future Movement
It had the largest share in the former government (6 for itself and 6 for its allies) and none in the present one. The Future Movement’s parliamentary bloc, “Lebanon First”, counts no less than 30 MPs, making the largest bloc. Moreover, it can count on the support of 22 additional MPs among its allies and dependent “independents”.
Interestingly enough, having been THE governmental party for over two decades, the Future Movement can count on quite a strong support from within the state apparatus. Its years in government has allowed it to make a lot of nominations within the state: filling in some key posts and a lot of minor and medium positions within the public administration (that are actually extremely handy for daily administrative life). It undoubtedly has one of the biggest patronage network in Lebanon, only second to Nabih Berri. The Future Movement (FM) can equally count on support from outside the state. It retains the symbolic leadership of the Sunni community (through its influence on Dar al Fatwa and communal organizations, and because it has the largest number of sunni MPs in parliament: 15 for its bloc & 2 for its allies out of 27). It can also count on strong international relations and economical leverage within Lebanese society through charities, foundations, corporations and banks. These reasons make me doubt that the Future Movement will play the role of an opposition. It’s more likely to play the role of a para-governmental structure, as it has shown on tuesday when it gathered most of its MPs for a meeting.

An opposition party is one that not only voices dissent, but also accepts its position outside government. In Lebanon, these two aspects are disconnected. Ministers started voicing their dissent in the 1950s, contradicting every aspect of governmental solidarity. And in the 1990s, Walid Jumblatt pushed this aspect a step further and invented the very oxymoronic concept of “opposition within the government”, a concept that the Free Patriotic Movement and March 8th carried on in the past three years. So basically, dissent has become prevalent in Lebanon, so much so that the media called part of the governing coalition since 2006 “the opposition”.

Now that the Future Movement is out of the government, one can wonder if they are willing to play the role of opposition, that is stay out of the country’s governance. That doesn’t seem likely. One can look back at the party’s three experiences out of the government (2 years in opposition under the Hoss Government, 4 months under the Karame Government, 3 months under the Miqati Government) and see that it had actually kept on interfering in the country’s governance. It’s not only a question of will, it’s almost structurally impossible.

A Para-govermental structure

The Free Patriotic Movement
It has the biggest share in the present government (6 for itself and 4 for its allies. That makes 10 out of 30). Its “Reform and Change” bloc is the country’s second after the FM’s “Lebanon first” with 20 MPs (2 belonging to the Tashnag).
It came out as the biggest beneficiary of the governmental change, it has actually been a governmental party since 2008, even if it was mislabeled then as an “opposition party” Interestingly enough, it actually kept on perceiving and self-portarying itself as an “opposition party”. Now that this has become impossible, the biggest change for the FPM (and its supporters) is going to be a psychological one. It is now THE governing party. But even if that’s true for the formal politics (based on institutional rules), it is less true for the informal politics (based on informal interactions grounded on “raw” power and personal ties and interests), and that’s where things are going to play out. Since its return to politics in 2005, the FPM has very quickly integrated the Lebanese informal politics. It allied itself with the most prominent christian patrons in Lebanon during the 2005 parliamentary elections: Sleiman Frangieh in Northern Lebanon, Michel Murr in Central Mount Lebanon and Elias Skaff in Zahlé. Without this alliance (and the vote that these patrons can lever through their patronage networks), it would have probably lost several electoral districts, and would’t have been able to later consolidate and build on these electoral conquests. Then it secured a television channel (OTV, 2007), followed by a radio channel (Sawt el Mada in 2009)… this was also done through informal politics. The FPM didn’t change the rules of the game. They secured ways to achieve their goals by playing like all the other players.

Basically, Michel Aoun has achieved the goal he had set himself when he came to Lebanon, become a major player in Lebanese politics, but instead of becoming the country’s president, he became a super-Za’im. Before his return from exile, Michel Aoun realised that to reach the presidency, he had first to become a Za’im. With a massive vote in his favour, the Christian electorate entitled him to it, but it was denied him by the quadripartite alliance at first and then by the Future Movement who supported two rival politicians who had a claim to the same title (Samir Geagea and Amin Gemayel). This is no longer the case. Now that he “commands” the largest share in the government, he has become a super-Za’im, joining the same rank as Saad Hariri, Nabih Berri, Hassan Nasrallah and Walid Jumblatt. But unlike the three others, he didn’t do that by converting his military or financial capital into political power. He did it through elections and through his alliance with Hezbollah. So basically, he is the most fragile of the super-Zu’ama, and he know it. His first task is to consolidate his power. He has to secure the same score during the 2013 parliamentary elections, and ideally increase it. This means he has to convince the Lebanese voters. Can he do it without playing into informal politics and creating his own patronage network?

Posted in Lebanon, Patronage Networks, Pluralism, Political behaviour, Speculation | Leave a Comment »

Habemus Majlisan!

Posted by worriedlebanese on 14/06/2011

Cinq mois de gestation – “autant qu’une chèvre”, comme l’a remarqué une amie – pour que le Liban accouche d’un gouvernement. On s’attendait à un changement notable, à un gouvernement tourné vers l’avenir. C’est peut-être ce que nous réservait la formule initiale de Nagib Miqati. Mais c’est finalement Nabih Berri qui a fait accoucher un gouvernement de 30 membres: un gouvernement résolument ancré dans la réalité la plus proche, la plus immédiate, celle du petit jeu politicien où le seul horizon est la prochaine échéance électorale (dont les contours commencent à se dessiner). Exit les ministres femmes. Aucune formation membre de la coalition gouvernementale (qui regroupe pas moins de 8 partis politiques et onze notables “indépendants”) n’a daigné proposer UNE ministre! Exit le seul “représentant de la société civile”, c’est-à-dire Ziad Baroud, qui a sans doute déçu plus d’un, mais qui jusqu’au bout a incarné par son style de communication et les valeurs qu’il représente le type de ministre auquel une majorité de libanais aspire. Exit l’espoir de l’inclusion des minorités. On avait parlé de la nomination d’un ministre Aléouite et de la réapparition d’un Ministre Protestant (à l’instar de B. Flayhan) ou Latin (à l’instar de N. de Freige)… espoirs déçus.

Avant d’examiner successivement les nouvelles dynamiques que reflète le gouvernement, commençons par une description sommaire.

Le second gouvernement Miqati comprend 8 partis politiques: CPL (6 ministres dont un d’État), PSP (3 ministres avec portefeuilles), Tashnag (2 ministres dont un d’État), Marada (2 ministres dont un d’État), Amal (2 ministres), Hezbollah (2 ministres dont un d’État), PSNS (1 ministre d’État), Parti Démocratique (1 ministre d’État). Les 11 autres ministres sont des “indépendants”.

Sur les 30 Ministres que comprend ce gouvernement, 8 sont hérités du gouvernement Saad Hariri (dont cinq gardent leur portefeuille ministériel) et 6 autres ont déjà participé à un gouvernement. Sur les 16 nouveaux ministres, 3 sont députés (S. Karam, A. Karamé, A. Terro), 5 ont été des candidats malheureux ou sacrifiés aux législatives de 2009 (Ch. Cortbawi, F. Ghosn, N. Khoury, V. Saboundjian, N. Sahnaoui) et 2 sont issus de la fonction publique (M. Charbel, P. Manjian).

Les éléments insolites du gouvernement

1. Migration communautaire des notables “indépendants”. Cette catégorie d’indépendants regroupe généralement des notables dont le capital politique n’est pas suffisamment important pour qu’ils constituent des partis politiques ou des réseaux clientélistes plus ou moins autonomes au sein de l’appareil public (étatique ou municipal). En réalité, la marge de manoeuvre politique des indépendants est extrêmement réduite, et ils doivent généralement s’appuyer sur un réseau clientéliste au sein de l’Etat, ce qui les rend très peu “indépendants”…

En raison de l’exclusion musclée de la majorité des forces politiques chrétiennes du jeu politique (de 1992 à 2005), le Liban s’est habitué d’une part à une sur-représentation de ministres chrétiens dit “indépendants” et d’autres part à une importante répartition de ministres chrétiens entre réseaux clientélistes musulmans (Chiites, Sunnites et Druzes). Cette tendance a été revue à la baisse depuis 2005 et la réintégration des principales forces politiques chrétiennes au jeu politique (grâce à la bipolarisation politique et la division des chrétiens… comme quoi la division peut faire la force). Aujourd’hui, on ne trouve que 4 ministres chrétiens “indépendants” (contre 11 ministres chrétiens affiliés à des forces politiques et des réseaux clientélistes chrétiens) : deux relèvent de la part présidentielle, un est le résultat d’un compromis entre deux personnalités maronites, et le quatrième relève du Premier Ministre sunnite).

En revanche, on retrouve ce phénomène des “indépendants” au sein d’une communauté musulmane: la communauté sunnite avec 6 “indépendants” sur les 7 ministres qui lui ont été attribués (le septième relève du réseau clientéliste Druze). Ceci a eu lieu suite à l’exclusion musclée du Courant du Future – le réseau clientéliste essentiellement sunnite appartenant à la famille Haririqu’elle a constitué depuis 1992 et graduellement transformé en un des piliers du pouvoir au Liban qui est devenu depuis 2005 la formation hégémonique sunnite.

2. Déséquilibre communautaire. Pour pallier aux défauts dans la représentativité des ministres sunnites, on a accordé aux sunnites un ministère (d’État) en plus et aux chiites un ministère (d’État) en moins… Pour la première fois depuis des décennies, on a dérogé à la règle du partage égale entre Maronites, Chiites et Sunnites. Le second gouvernement Miqati comporte 7 ministres Sunnites, 6 ministres Maronites et 5 ministres Chiites. Et on a continué dans la politique d’exclusion des petites communautés, notamment Arméniennes-Catholiques, Protestantes, Latines et Aléouites qui sont représentées au parlement mais pas au gouvernement.

3. Un régime dissocié. Le pouvoir quadripartite perd une de ses roues. Une des forces principales qui participe à la gouvernance du pays ne participera pas au gouvernement: Le Courant du Future. Son exclusion du gouvernement ne signifie pas pour autant son exclusion de la gouvernance pour trois raison:

  • Depuis les années 1980, ce réseau peut compter sur de solides relations internationales établies par la famille Hariri avec le pouvoir Séoudien, Emirati, et Kuwaitien, sans compter sur les relations avec les gouvernements et les milieux d’affaires occidentaux (et notamment Français et Américains).
  • Depuis 1992, ce réseau a infiltré l’appareil étatique à travers une politique de nomination, de protection, et de captation d’autres réseaux. Aujourd’hui, il a la particularité de pouvoir s’appuyer à la fois sur des agents et des réseaux étatiques et extra-étatiques (un grand nombre de sociétés privées dans le domaine de la construction, de la banque, des médias, de la communication…). Depuis 1998, ce réseau  a montré à plusieurs reprises que son exclusion d’un ministère ne signifiait pas l’arrêt de son influence.
  • Enfin, depuis 2005, ce réseau peut compter sur une forte mobilisation de la communauté sunnite à l’intérieur comme à l’extérieur de l’Etat.

Depuis 1992, la gouvernance au Liban est constitué autour de quatre principaux groupes politiques: le Courant du Future, le Parti Socialiste Progressiste, Amal et Hezbollah. Chaque groupe politique s’appuie sur un réseau clientéliste dont trois phagocytent: le réseau clientéliste chiite de Nabih Berri, le réseau clientéliste sunnite de Rafic Hariri et le réseau clientéliste druze de Walid Joumblatt.

Jusqu’en 2005, la structuration clientéliste du pouvoir connaissait deux “anomalies”:

  • L’anomalie du Hezb. Un des piliers du pouvoir possédait un réseau clientéliste qui ne s’appuyait pas sur l’Etat, ni pour défendre ses intérêts, ni pour y puiser ses ressources. Effectivement, pour défendre ses intérêts, le Hezbollah comptait sur la Syrie, et pour ses ressources il s’appuyait sur l’Iran et la diaspora.
  • L’anomalie chrétienne. Dans la configuration quadripartite bâtie par la Syrie, les chrétiens n’avaient que deux choix: soit intégrer les petits réseaux clientélistes chrétiens de Frangieh, de Murr et des familles de Zahlé à faible rendement politique, soit intégrer les sous-réseaux clientélistes chrétiens qui relèvent des grands réseaux de Zaïm musulmans (principalement Jumblatt pour le Mont Liban méridional, Hariri pour Beyrouth et Berry pour le Sud).
Avec le gouvernement Miqati, trois nouvelles “anomalies” se sont rajoutés:
  • L’anomalie CPL: la principale force politique au gouvernement, le CPL avec ses 6 ministres, ne s’appuie pas sur un réseau clientéliste (le CPL ne semble pas avoir bâti durant ses trois années de participation au pouvoir un réseau clientéliste peut-être en raison du peu de nomination, à la différence des Forces Libanaises qui ont su être beaucoup plus efficace au sein des FSI, par exemple).
  • L’anomalie Sunnite: la principale force politique au parlement, et une des principales forces clientélistes au sein de l’appareil étatique est exclue du gouvernement. Elle est remplacée par des notables “indépendants” qui s’en rapprochent sur le fond (surtout par rapport à la politique économique et les relations internationales) mais qui ne peuvent pas remplir les mêmes fonctions symboliques et clientélistes. Ceci va créer une nouvelle dynamique qui va sans doute compliquer et alourdir le travail gouvernemental, mais peut-être profiter au Courant du Future (mais pas à ses alliés chrétiens).
  • Vers la résorption de l’anomalie Hezb? Le Hezb peut de moins en moins compter sur un appui étranger et se voit contraint de s’appuyer sur l’Etat libanais. Ceci l’a conduit à faire chuter un gouvernement et à écarter le premier ministre qui n’était pas prêt à lui accorder la couverture dont il a besoin…
Le développement des réseaux clientélistes et la manière dont ils ont phagocyté l’Etat Libanais ont conduit au développement d’un mode de gouvernance qui repose sur des règles informelles apportées par les différents acteurs afin de protéger leurs intérêts. Même si ces règles informelles contredisaient les principes formels de gouvernement (comme le pouvoir hiérarchique au sein de l’administration, la centralisation du pouvoir et la séparation des pouvoirs), le gouvernement reflétait en quelque sorte le système de partage des ressources et de répartition du pouvoir au sein de l’appareil étatique. Avec les nouvelles anomalies qui se sont rajoutées au système suite à la formation du deuxième gouvernement Miqati, nous entrons dans une nouvelle phase où le gouvernement ne reflète plus le système de gouvernance (ni la répartition des forces au sein de la société)… Cette nouvelle tension entre le pouvoir “réel” et le pouvoir “formel” ne peut perdurer sans influer sur les règles formelles ou informelles du pouvoir… La manière dont ceci se fera n’est pas encore clair.

Posted in Idiosyncrasy 961, Intercommunal affairs, Patronage Networks, Political behaviour, Reform, Version Francophone | 2 Comments »

Background Info on Israeli-Druze Delegation to Lebanon

Posted by worriedlebanese on 22/07/2010

Another example of Jumblatt's mastery of ME politics

So basically, Walid Jumblatt has been working this past decade on reinforcing his position as a cross-national Druze leader. He made a major step in that direction in 2001 when he organised a meeting between Lebanese and Israeli Druze in Amman. For more information on that meeting check out Tareq Ayyoub’s article in the Jordan Times: Lebanese, Israeli Druze leaders meet in Amman.

To be able to go ahead in his communal agenda, he has to do three things:

  • Secure the assent of Syrian authorities and Lebanese communal leaders who are hostile toward Israel, so as not be accused of “normalisation” or collaboration with Israeli authorities.
  • Give this communal meeting and the presence of this Israeli delegation a spin. This means selling it in a particular way to the media. The best example of this successful spin is Samer Husseini’s article in the Safir and Orient Le Jour’s article Druze from Israel succeed in breaking the blockade by coming to Lebanon (in French).
  • Reinforce his pro-palestinian credentials. He did that a month ago with the four bills he presented in parliament in order to expand Palestinian civil rights (more info on that here).

Posted in Communication, Intercommunal affairs, Israel, Lebanon, Patronage Networks, Peace, Political behaviour | 1 Comment »

Credo in form of a decalogue (changes I believe in)

Posted by worriedlebanese on 15/07/2010

Some people have very rightly said that my approach to “Laïque Pride” (among other things) is too negative and that instead of simply criticising, I should be presenting some alternatives. So I took two hours to think about it and came up with this decalogue.
1. I believe that we should pressure the parliament into establishing the “communauté de droit commun” that was recognised in the 1930s!!!! And allow it to have its own institutions and its own laws in matters of mariage and inheritance, and also its own courts. In other words Create a democratic and liberal “op out” mechanism to communal membership.

2. I personally think the Lebanese state should stop financing the muslim clergy and the muslim courts, because it is discriminatory towards non-muslims and it contradicts the principle of separation between religion and state. In other words Enforce the principle of  separation between State and Religion.

3. I also believe that the civil inheritance law that applies to Christians should be abolished because it is patriarchal and discriminatory. I believe Christians should be allowed to have their own inheritance laws (the catholic inheritance law for instance is more liberal than the secular Lebanese inheritance law), just like Muslims do… In other words: Enforce the principle of equality between communities.

4. I believe that the “clergy” has the right to express its political opinion, like all other citizens do. And that we have the right (and the duty) to criticize it when we don’t agree with it. However, the Muslim “clergy” BY LAW doesn’t have the right to express political views because it holds the status of “state agent”. If it wants to benefit from this right, it should set itself free from the state. In other words Enforce the principles of rule of law.

5. I also believe that people who belong to a community should pay a specific tax for this community (like in Germany) in order to to finance each community’s institutions (courts and non-clerical representative institutions) and give it the means to have a properly trained personnel (most importantly judges)! And where there are taxes, there’s accountability! In other words Guarantee a greater autonomy to communities.

6. I also believe that pressure should be made on state courts to reinterpret Law 534 of our criminal law that doesn’t mention homosexuality but speaks of sexual relations that are “contradicting the laws of nature”… I believe this sentence’s interpretation should be restricted to bestiality… and not include adultery, homosexuality and what have you: In other words “upgrade” Personal Freedom to international standards.

7. I also believe that there should be NO censorship. And that the censorship board should be replaced by a rating board (like in the US). I believe freedom of opinion and information should be guaranteed. For this we need a new legislation and excerpt  a lot of pressure on our political class (that controls the media and restricts the creation of new media). In other words “upgrade” Freedom of Expression to international standards.

8. I believe that military courts should not be allowed to try civilians. And that even soliders should be given the right to oppose a military court’s ruling by bringing the case to a higher civil court (Constitutional court, Court of cassation, Council of State or preferably a common supreme court that replaces them). In other words Extend the principle of Due Process.

9. I believe that the history of communities should be taught in schools because people are extremely ignorant about these things and they replace their lack of knowledge with prejudice. Our students should learn about communal persecutions, conversions, liberal and conservative religious movements… They should learn about the dhimmi laws, and that they were not always applied. They should learn about religious extremism (how Syriac and Protestant converts were persecuted by the Maronite church, how Chrisitans, and non orthodox Muslims were persecuted by the Mamlouk, how the Eastern Catholic churches were latinised by Rome and missionaries, how the Oriental Orthodox clergy were discriminated against by the Greeks (and how the Arab speaking orthodox clergy revolted in the 19th century, how the Iranian clergy and schools changed the Lebanese Shiites religious practice, what sunni religious reformers proposed in the 19th century… In other words, Replace prejudice and ignorance with knowledge.

10. I believe that the confessional system can be reformed… But this reform should keep in mind the basic principles on which this system is based: inclusiveness and diversity. That’s why all recognised communities should have a representative in Parliament! Today, the rule applies only to 11 communities out of the 17 established communities (the “communauté de droit commun” just like the Ismaeli community is recognised but not established, once it is established it will become the 18th community). Moreover, we should have a law that sets a procedure for the recognition of other religious communities (the Czech law is quite a good one). I also believe that there are competent people in all communities and that “confessionalism” shouldn’t be an excuse to choose the most corrupt or the least competent of them, or an excuse to strengthen the power of patrons over people who belong to their community (within the state and outside it). In other words, Enforce the principles of Inclusiveness and Diversity inherent in Confessionalism.

When are we going to start doing something about these issues instead of parroting an almost centennial discourse that is produced and manipulated by politicians and that leads to nowhere?

Posted in Diversity, History, Intercommunal affairs, Islam, Judaism, Levantine Christians, Memory, Patronage Networks, Personal, Prejudice, Reform, Religion, Secularism, Values | 6 Comments »

Weapons of Mass Underdevelopment

Posted by worriedlebanese on 08/06/2010

Marketing strategies can change their image, but not their nature: The Lebanese political class

I’m not going to waste time explaining how and why our political class are the reason behind our underdevelopment. I wouldn’t want to insult my compatriots intelligence. It is quite obvious to us all that this rather small group of people not only bring on us destruction, but deprive us from any chance of progressing socially, culturally, politically and economically. And this is true in time of peace and war (though it’s sometimes hard to distinguish between the two).

The greatest challenge we face today – as Lebanese – is undoubtedly to find a way to diffuse this extremely threatening danger. And that is certainly a tricky business because this closed club controls almost everything through their individual and collective power. The oddest thing about this business is that everyone is conscious of it. However, each and everyone of us supports it in one way or another. We did it quite efficiently these past four years by falling in a meaningless extreme political polarisation. But we also do it by refusing to act and think freely; by insisting on “the global picture” instead of fighting for the details; by buying into the different slogans; by playing it safe.

What risk have we been taking? What new ideas have we been supporting? What new battles have we engaged in? Honestly!! Let’s face it. We haven’t been doing much. There are very few exceptions. Let’s face it. And even in these cases we could have gone much further. But we’re playing safe. Something is holding us back. What can we do to unleash that energy? There’s a lot of talent, there’s a lot of good will, there’s a huge need, and there is one space that is left uncontrolled: cyberspace. Let’s use it.

I’ve been thinking about different strategies to diffuse our lethal weapons for some time, and I think only two can work:

  • A Political strategy: At first, I thought that supporting a maverick would destabilise the system, fragilise it, open it up. To some extent, this is what the maverick did, but he also played a stabilising role within the system and was co-opted into it… To make a long story short, the little space that the maverick left open, we didn’t use. We only benefited from the space granted to us by the political system, not out of generosity, but lack of interest. And even that space wasn’t used optimally. I personally believe that we could follow a political strategy that could be effective. The gradual overthrow of a system that was founded in 1958. And this could only be done through a cultural strategy.
  • A Cultural strategy: This one is quite tricky. The challenge is to push the country into the 21st century  (screaming and kicking). Some good work has been done in this respect in two issues: women’s rights and migrant workers. But even there it’s not enough. The initiatives are too isolated. They function like all awareness campaigns: they last as long as the campaign lasts… And this is not enough. The idea here is to push forward many new and challenging ideas in an integrated way, and to lend support to those who want to do it. Economically, the initiatives will still be largely dependent on foreign financing (even though it would be interesting to try to interest local structures to finance these initiatives), but I believe it would be possible to impose on them a local agenda instead of submitting to theirs.

Posted in Civil Society, Culture, Democracy, Lebanon, Patronage Networks, Political behaviour, Politics | 2 Comments »

A look back at Lebanon’s municipal elections

Posted by worriedlebanese on 01/06/2010

It’s finally over!!! Lebanon’s four-tiers municipal elections have come to an end. Mount Lebanon voted on May 2, then Beirut, the Beqaa and Baalbek-Hermel (on May 9), then South Lebanon and Nabatieh on May 23, and finally North Lebanon and Akkar on May 30th.

Oddly enough, every single person seems to ignore the current Lebanese administrative divisions, even the Ministry of Interior!! They all refer to the pre-1975 administrative divisions. Strange, isn’t it?

I will be writing two posts on this issue this week in which I will try to keep with the “blogging spirit”: I will posting something I wrote four weeks ago on the elections in my hamlet. I will also be sharing with you my thoughts on the dynamics behind these elections, focusing on Mount Lebanon.
But first, let’s look at what the Minister had to say about these elections:

ے963 مجلساً بلدياً و2753 مختاراُ سيحصدون ثقتكم في ربيع 2010
إنه عرسٌ جديدٌ للديمقراطية، مدعوون اليه جميعاً هذه السنة أيضاً بعدما أنجزنا سوياً السنة الماضية الانتخابات النيابية.
هو عرسٌ لأنه يتيح لنا اختيار ممثلينا الى المجالس البلدية والاختيارية بحرّية و”مساءلتهم” بالطريقة الأكثر رقياً وحضارية، ألا وهي صندوق الاقتراع.

“963 municipal councils and 2753 mukhtar will reap your trust in the spring of 2010.
It’s a new wedding for democracy that you are all invited to this year as well, one that follows our common success in last year’s parliamentary elections.
It is indeed a wedding because it allows us to choose our representatives in the municipal and mukhtar councils freely… and to hold them accountable in the most sophisticated and civilised way, that is through the ballot box”.

And what a wedding it was. Obviously not one you’d like to be invited to. Try picturing two egomaniac and dull individuals, bringing their two dysfunctional families together, with unexpected guests barging in to a ceremony organised by a mediocre wedding planner.

If there’s one positive outcome to this farce (the second electoral farce in two years), it’s the first point Ziyad Baroud stressed on in his press confrence: “Despite all the political pressure in Lebanon and the region, the Lebanese were able to assert the principle of ‘periodicty of elections’, a principle at the heart of democracy”.

Credit where credit is due, we owe the non violation of this constitutional principle to Ziyad Baroud who forced these elections on the political class (with the support of the President of the Republic) that tried to postpone these elections by linking it to electoral reforms. This didn’t prevent the Minister of Interior from starting the electoral process while the discussion on electoral reforms was ongoing.

Posted in Democracy, Lebanon, Patronage Networks, Political behaviour, Politics, Semantics | 7 Comments »

Dynasty – Jumblatt style

Posted by worriedlebanese on 17/03/2010

A prophecy realised!

One of the least commented announcements in Walid Jumblatt’s lengthy interview on Al-Jazira is that he would not visit his father’s tomb on the day commemorating his father assassination, but that his son, Taymour, would do it instead.

Now this information is in itself quite trivial, but if one follows the whole interview one would realise that it is probably the most significant part of it. Why? Because it reflects the way politicians portray politics, the way they represent it and represent themselves as political actors.

Let’s put this simple announcement in context. Five years ago, Walid Jumblatt accused openly the Syrian regime of being behind the assassination in 1977 of his father, Kamal Jumblatt (conservative and traditionalist politician, warlord, businessman, founder of the dynasty and of the Progressive Socialist Party). In 2005, Walid Jumblatt held the Assad family responsible for this death at a time when the Lebanese political class was feeling extremely vulnerable and emotions were running high. In 2009, emotions are not as strong, the Lebanese political class is feeling less vulnerable and it has been pressured into a reconciliatory attitude. And so instead of the “Forgive but don’t Forget” that Walid Jumblatt claimed was his motto from 1977 to 2005, the Druze Za’im announced that his new motto would be “Forgive and Forget”. And to show his compliance to his new approach, he refrained from visiting his father’s tomb. However, by sending his son to represent him, he is signalling some ambiguous message to his audience (communal and Syrian): a willingness to reform (forgiving and forgetting) or to abdicate in favor of his son (who forgives without forgetting).

Posted in Culture, Discourse, Patronage Networks, Political behaviour | Leave a Comment »

This is not a Table…

Posted by worriedlebanese on 14/03/2010

Magritte wouldn’t have said it any better! The most notable decision that came out of the national dialogue table was its relabeling. President Michel Suleiman proclaimed that it will no longer be called “National Dialogue Table” but “National Dialogue Committee”.
This name change signals a will to institutionalise what can be described as an official informal institution. To understand what the dialogue table is about, one has to look at its short history.

How it all started
The National Dialogue Table came about on March 2nd 2006. At that time, two of the state’s institutions had been neutralised: the Constitutional Court and the Presidency. The ruling coalition (composed of the Quadripartite alliance and some of its members’ allies) was starting to split between two blocs that threatened two other state institutions (the government and the parliament). The first meeting was convened by the Speaker, Nabih Berri and gathered 14 leaders. This reunion short circuited the state’s institutions and made them seem superfluous (which they were soon to become). The national dialogue helped redefine and shift the power structure in Lebanon: it was no longer in the state’s institutions but belonged to the communal leadership. It brought the country back to the 1970 and 1980s when the militia leaders succeeded in paralysing the state and holding the country hostage to their individual interests and collective deliberation. The National Dialogue table is in many ways the resurrection of the National dialogue committee (1975-1976) and the  Geneva (1983) and Lausanne (1984) conferences. It follows the same basic principle and objective : formalising the distribution of power in the country. For an interesting comparison check out Mary Jane Deeb and Marius Deeb’s article “Internal negotiations in a centralist conflict: Lebanon” in William Zartman’s Elusive Peace (1995).

What has changed since 2006?
One has to admit that we owe the state’s resurrection to this National Dialogue Table, when it spawned the Doha agreement in 2008 (May 16 – May 21), its only efficient meeting. However, we owe this efficiency to a Qatari team that set up the agenda, convened the meeting and brokered the deal. Interestingly enough, the only true accomplishment of the National dialogue table was neither mentioned by the President (on March 9th 2010) or by the final statement of March XIV (on March 14th 2010).
What changes has the National Dialogue Table undergone since 2006? The most obvious change is its expansion and the shift in its chairmanship. Instead of the original 14, it now regroups 20 people. Most of the original members are the same, but Qornet Shehwan is out (Butros Harb had to be expelled to realise that the National Dialogue Table was meaningless) and so are the Orthodox dinosaures (Michel Murr and Ghassan Tueni). The dialogue roundtable is no longer a roundtable but a committee! It is no longer convened by the Speaker but by the President who not only chooses its members but sets its agenda and publishes its statement. But some things never change: its decisions are still too general and it has no mechanism to implement them.
On the other hand, much has changed in the country: All state institutions are back on track: the country has a national unity government, a consensual president, a resurrected constitutional council (mediocre as ever) and a convening parliament. With all these institutions working again, do we still need a National Dialogue Table? Has Michel Suleiman given it a thought? Did he even notice that the meeting he convened and the name that he gave it bear a striking resemblance to  that which was assembled on september 24, 1975. It was called the National Dialogue Committee and gathered 20 people…

Posted in Diversity, Intercommunal affairs, Lebanon, Patronage Networks, Pluralism, Political behaviour, Politics, Semantics | Leave a Comment »