ANTOINE MESSARRA
 
   
   
   
   
     
   
 
     
 




Théorie générale du système constitutionnel libanais

 

The work in Arabic - just published – by Professor Antoine Messarra is a basis in terms of methodology and comparative study of pacts in Lebanon as concerns the nation building and the Constitution. The Preface by Professor Antoine Seif is entitled: “Pluralist Culture of Agreement to Defend the Message Conveyed by Lebanon ”. It was presented when the Cultural Movement of Antelias gave Professor Antoine Messarra the ‘Veterans of Culture in Lebanon ' medal.

Antoine Seif writes: “The author's thoughts are drawn from Lebanese political reflections as he attempts to pinpoint the particularities of nation-building in Lebanon . The author sets an uncommon cultural movement since no one before him has tried to establish a general theory of political institutions in Lebanon or to contribute to the founding of a national culture based on agreement in the light of recent studies.”

As of the introduction, the author endeavors to clarify any approaches that may lead to a misunderstanding of the Lebanese Constitution. Antoine Messarra writes: “The consensual system of government has often been perceived as an agreement among the elite whereas it is in fact an application of the majority rule – one which in fact is universal – but with several variants. The new article 65 of the Lebanese Constitution, amended in 21/9/1990 by virtue of the National Agreement Pact on 5/11/1989, states that the decisions of the Council of Ministers ‘are taken through consensus…'. The consensual system is a way of taking decisions and not a sort of agreement among the elite at the top without regulation contrary to the Rule of Law.

 

A typology and a method

The author shows that consensual typology is not a political regime but a classification in comparative constitutional law with various institutional variants. Among the latter: adopting a geographic or personal federalism; the quota representation, partial, closed or open, legal or customary; with coalition cabinets based on parties and not sub-cultures; setting up an electoral system and a division avoiding the exclusion of minorities; setting up segmentary autonomy for some affairs (personal statutes, education, etc.) limited or broader with attempts to conciliate individual and collective rights…

The work includes papers given at Arab and international conferences as well as studies published in collective works. What links them is the comparative approach to the Lebanese Constitution with the problems it raises, its analysis and the consequences for good governance. A constitutional culture without alienation is a prerequisite of the Rule of Law and civil peace namely for the rising generation. This culture that goes beyond the mere explanation of one given article needs fundamental wisdom and judicial references. Yet in Lebanon, despite all efforts - namely at international conferences -, despite the 1975-1990 wars, the dismantling of the USSR, the increase in the issues related to minorities and identities in globalization, the methodological approach to the Lebanese constitutional system needs to be studied further and enriched in the light of normative and comparative cases. This is especially true since the consensual typology can be largely modified. The distinction between systems of government based on competition and those based on consensus dates back to the 1970s. The theory is far from being imported in Lebanon since Lebanon has always been taken as an example to establish it.

 

Nation Building, Quota and Power Sharing

Among the major chapters of the work are the following: ‘Nation-building through Pacts' (ch.1), ‘The dilemma of equality and participation in Arab political regimes' (ch.4), ‘Power sharing and the separation of powers' (ch.12), ‘Personal federalism in a comparative perspective' (ch.13), ‘The cultural and educational dimensions of the Lebanese Constitution' (ch.14), ‘Setting up frontiers between politics and religion to establish harmony between the State and Religion', as states in the clause of the National Agreement Pact (2 nd part)…

In the conclusion, the author wonders: “What is the use of constitutions and laws if they are not linked with their founding principles? What is the use of political education – which we call national – if we lack a culture that is a reference regardless of changes in any circumstances? The basis of a culture of National independence is, quite paradoxically, progressive isolationism: isolationism is used to protect and give immunity to al-mithâq (Pact), which in Arabic means binding and implies commitment; it is progressive in the way unity is managed within diversity creating a shining pattern of Islamic-Christian relations and democratic Arab identity. The Lebanese will have reached political maturity when they establish limits in their political culture between what is highly constant and the possibilities of change.”

 

The Constitution … and the limits within the law

The author distinguishes between ‘Pact, Constitution and Governance' (p.35) and stresses: “The application of the consensual system in Lebanon has been – especially since 1990 – rather erratic because of a political class and an intellectual discourse that backs practices contrary to the Rule of Law under the pretext that: ‘This is the system! This is the 1943 Pact! This is the Ta'if Agreement'...! Yet, a basic rule has it that any political regime implies limits according to the Montesquieu theory. Respecting the principle of legality is – despite any hurdles – a guarantee to overcome any hurdles and difficulties. The consensual system is not in its nature an unbridled pattern. It abides by the norms of the law that we need to clarify and defend. At a time when the Rule of law is violated and the symbolism of the law is exploited for selective justice and political vengeance, it is essential that we should explain clearly criterion of analysis, as well as the norms and references that are at the basis of the Lebanese Constitution in a comparative perspective.”
 
 
 

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