Lebanon - Taef Agreement 1989
The National Pact of 1943 succeeded in ending the mandate, but failed to transform Lebanon into a cohesive functioning state. The political position of the various groups continued to be divided mainly along religious lines. It was only a matter of time before the political divide between Christians and Muslims exploded into a full armed conflict. This explosion occurred in 1975 and lasted until 1989, when the surviving deputies elected in 1972 met in Taef, Saudi Arabia, and agreed on a modest restructuring of the confessional regime to placate the warring factions and end the fighting. A smaller but similar conflict had occurred earlier in 1958 during which the United States Marines landed in Beirut in response to the crisis and helped restore order and return the country to normalcy.
The Taef Agreement required, and the House of Deputies adopted, the following amendments to the Constitution:
- A provision stipulating that “[t]here shall be no legitimacy to any authority that contradicts the pact of co-existence” (however, there was no explanation as to what pact was being referred to or what legal consequences would result from contradicting this pact) (Preamble);
- The vesting of the executive power of the State in the Council of Ministers rather than in the President (art. 17);
- The necessity of a two-thirds vote by the Cabinet on all major decisions (art. 65);
- The creation of a Constitutional Court (art. 19);
- The distribution of the seats of the House of Deputies or Parliament equally between Christians and Muslims and proportionally among each of them until such time as the House of Deputies has enacted an electoral law not on the basis of religious representation (art. 24); and
- The creation of a Senate where all religious communities are to be represented when the members of House of Deputies are no longer elected on a confessional basis (art. 22).
The Taef Agreement stripped the President of his constitutional powers and arguably left him with only one effective tool of governance — the authority to appoint the members of the Cabinet as agreed with the Prime Minister. Paradoxically, under the Taef Agreement the President is the Supreme Commander in Chief of the Army but the Army is under the authority of the Cabinet in which the President does not have the right to vote.
The Taef Agreement failed to address the issue of the confused national identity, which is the underlying reason for the perennial conflict in Lebanon. The sponsors of the Agreement—the Arab League, Saudi Arabia, and Syria—were content to have been able to put an end to the fighting and bring Lebanon back to a semblance of normalcy. The Taef Agreement was a repackaged version of the National Pact. On the one hand it acknowledged the need to end the confessional regime in the future, but on the other it redistributed the executive power on a confessional basis by expanding the power of the Sunni Prime Minister and the Cabinet at the expense of the Maronite President.
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