La gouvernance d'un système consensuel


The Search for the Right Governance in Lebanon

Professor Antoine Messarra has just published a new book entitled: La gouvernance d'un système consensuel: Le Liban après les amendements constitutionnels de 1990, (Beirut, Librairie Orientale, 2003, 600 p.). It adds up to the author's previous works on the analysis of the Lebanese political system.

Centered upon the efficacy of governance and citizenship in a consensual model of democracy, the book is divided into four parts:


1. Lebanon : a founding case of consensual model of democracy : The author shows that Lebanon has been, since the 1970s a founding case to set up theories on consensual systems or power sharing: building nations through pacts, cabinets with large coalitions, segmental autonomy in some fields such as personal status and education, guaranteed representation quotas, mutual veto... Lebanon has contributed to building up theory at an international scale.

A consensus-based approach which is an analysis method implies not criticism or denunciation but rather a way to change from within. The author notes: “Several authors went through a period of skepticism or denigration as concerns the comparative classification of political systems – into competitive systems, and consensual systems. However, they later, almost reluctantly, agreed to adopt the consensual approach of the Lebanese political system without analyzing the method further. After some analysis of the consensual system, these authors returned to patterns based on the majority rule thinking the latter are the only reference not taking into account that these majority based systems hold the germs of self-corruption.”

The book includes a re-reading of the amended art. 49 of the Constitution related to the new role of the chief of state as a “guardian of the rule of the law”
(pp. 159-164), and of the national agreement accord in general, known as the Taef, which dates back to 5/11/1989 in order to promote a “constitutional culture for the rising generation” (pp. 189-202).

The author suggests an analysis in terms of limits : “We have not yet thoroughly developed the concept of limits, the very foundation of L'Esprit des lois (Montesquieu), in the sense that the law guarantees the use of rights and determines their limits. Concrete advocacy should be used against any nomination to an administrative post which does not respect judicial and administrative conditions, under the pretext of confessional sharing of the power.”


2. Political management of religious pluralism: The State, religion and citizenship : This part is important as it deals with the developments related to an open system of personal status, the need of a neutral space in the relations between the state and religion, the mechanisms that check the exploitation of religion for political competition…


3. Citizenship as a means to support the State of Law : The author shows that primary allegiances are not necessarily an obstacle to citizenship as long as there is a common and shared public space. He writes: “Safeguarding democracies is through clear, watchful, committed citizenship; the latter is not a substitute of the State within what is called civil society, but is a way to create the State of Law, building and shaping a democratic state. Democracies are a cart with a least two wheels: the first is the regulating central state which promotes and guarantees norms; the second are watchful, clear-sighted citizens that take part, control and interfere in the first wheel so that politics becomes more the management of public affairs rather than mobilization, competition leading to conflicts, and balance of power.”


4. A consensus-based culture and a collective memory for the future : The author shows the immunity of a consensus-based system lies not in legal and formal developments but in a “culture of national agreement and contrition, a result of common and shared suffering”. He wonders: “Is history a … human science?” He sets forth a grid of “90 indicators of social inter-action and tolerance”, the problems of identity in a multi-communitarian society through case studies and testimonies; he brings up the risks of partitioning, and the odds of clear-sighted, unbiased political commitment.


The texts published in this book are basically papers given by the author in international or national conferences or contributions to collective research. They all deal with issues related to right governance, linking judicial and constitutional comparative approaches with the efficacy of law.

The work clearly shows “ Lebanon today does not have a major constitutional problem as far as the texts; it has major governance problems, related to management, application, steering and participation in democracy and development”. It is also shown that a “democracy of proximity” would check “unbridled governance”.


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