La structure sociale du Parlement Libanais
The Center for Research of the Institute of Social Sciences ( Lebanese University ) published a book by Dr Antoine N. Messarra on: La structure sociale du Parlement libanais (1920-1976) (Beirut, Librairie Orientale, 1977, 381 p.).
The author has a Ph.D. in sociology and holds other degrees in Law and Political Sciences. He is a teaching Professeur for the Department of Political Sciences at the Université St. Joseph and at the Faculty of Information and Documentation ( Lebanese University ). Dr Messarra is well-known for his researches and essays on the political life in Lebanon which are currently published in the Lebanese press and in specialized magazines.
The First Sociography ever made on the Lebanese Parliament
La structure sociale du Parlement libanais is the first sociography ever made on the Lebanese Parliament and the First sociological study on the parliamentary elite in Lebanon . It tells more than half a century of national representation, which is a total of 425 Members of Parliament who occupied 965 seats from 1920 to 1976.
The books introduction draws the outlines of political researches in Lebanon, defines the object and the method of the parliamentary sociology and shows that “the Lebanese democracy still has to be built”.
The author analyses two series of variables. The first series have a collective character and are related to the adherence of the various Members of Parliament to political parties and alliances. They are also related to the data resulting from the legal system, such as the numerical and confessional distribution of the parliamentary seats. The second series of variables have an individual character and are related to the characteristics of the Members of Parliament, namely their profession, social level, sex, family, age and education. These two kinds of variables, which interdependence is certain, will be used to determine the group characteristics of the Members of Parliament.
Dr Messarra shows in depth that there is a progressive renewal of the representation. However, he distinguishes between a dominant and permanent class which is not renewed and a mobile class including Members of Parliament – 300 (70%) – who are elected once or twice due to the patronage of traditional Zai'ims (leaders).
Dr Messarra underlines that the permanence, seniority and skillfulness of the Zai'ims make them powerful to face the inexperience of the new comers.
The author also establishes a classification of the political alliances and of the Members of Parliament who are allied to parties and parliamentary groups. He explains the advantages of the confessional representation but also its disadvantages when it leads to the atomization of the political life.
Dr Messarra's study on the “ Range of Professional Recruitment ” reveals that the political system has, so far, taken into consideration some equilibriums between the communities and the institutional equilibrium on the level of the principal holders of power. On the other hand, Dr Messarra reveals that other equilibriums (professional and economic) are not as safeguarded as the above mention.
Generations of Legislators
In the chapter, headed “Growing into old age, Length of Service and Renovation”, the author demonstrates that the present Chamber, with the length of service of its members stretching from 1925 to 1977(52 years), includes three generations of representatives.
Dr Messarra points out that 21 Members of Parliament (out of 99) from the 13 th Legislature had had access to the Chamber for the first time before 1953.
Drawing the portrait of the Lebanese Member of Parliament, the author describes three types: the Patrician, the Financier and the Partisan. His description of these three types gives an indication about the behaviour of the political leaders.
In his conclusion, Dr Messarra considers that the electoral geography is a determinant factor for the restructuration of the opinion and for the formation of a real “national” elite to replace a “local” and confessional elite. He plans, in a later study, “to define ways and means to achieve a new structuration of the opinion in order to create a political majority in a country of minorities”. “According to the author this political majority should include a double majority: Christian and Moslem. He adds that “the definition of the successful conditions of pluralism is also necessary for the safeguard of the consociational democracy in Lebanon because this democracy cannot be safeguarded by a simple move from an old form of pluralism to a new form of pluralism. The events of 1975-1976 proved the failure of the strategy based on violence and confirmed the theory of non violence when it comes to political reforms in Lebanon .”
A unique document
The reference of the book include a complete list of the 425 Members of Parliament from 1920 to 1976, with he indication of the Legislatures they occupied. This list is a unique document.
Finally, The Social Structure of the Lebanese Parliament (1920-1976) introduces new methods of research in the field of political Sciences in Lebanon . It also opens wide horizons for the political analysis.