When asked whether or not today was the right time to eliminate political sectarianism in Lebanon, respondents were sharply divided: 49.1 percent found the time to be somewhat or very suitable; 40.7 percent disagreed; and 10.1 percent were somewhat indifferent. Upon closer analysis, these divisions proved to be anything but arbitrary.
|In general, do you think that today is the right time to eliminate political sectarianism? |
| |Frequency |Percent |Valid Percent |Cumulative Percent |
|Valid |very suitable |197 |33.6 |35.3 |
Not surprisingly, this divergence among the respondents was found to be primarily driven by sectarian affiliation. The survey showed that Shi’ites expressed the most enthusiasm for deconfessionalization, whereas Christian confessional groups, and to some extent the Sunnis, were much more hesitant to abolish the current system (see Table below for percentages).
Sectarian affiliation remains a strong determinant of attitude toward political reform, particularly with regards to political deconfessionalisation. Overall, 65.5 percent of Shi’ites found such reforms to be very, or at least somewhat, suitable compared to only 20.9 percent of Maronites and 49.1 percent of Sunnis.
If Lebanon’s current demography is any indication, this polarity clearly reflects the deep-seated concerns of the Christian community of being relegated into a political minority, assuming that a proportional representation electoral system emerges in place of the current one. (Perhaps demography) Muslims, on the other hand, and particularly the Shi’ites, are much more eager to translate their demographic advantages into political gains. According to Dr. Salamey, “Christian fears and Sunni hesitancy may have further been consolidated as a result of the contemporary rise of ‘political Shi’ism.’” Regardless of the reason, the common denominator underlying this apprehension seems to stem from fear of political marginalization. As a result, many sectarian partisans cannot bring themselves to deal forthrightly with a system that may potentially undermine their political power.
Another consideration lies well outside of Lebanon, on the international horizon. If the domestic balance of power is tilted in favor of one sectarian group over another, regional calculations may undergo an equally dramatic paradigm shift. This will surely have resounding implications on external aid in the form of financial, military, political and diplomatic support for both the Lebanese state and its substate actors. And of course, one cannot discuss the regional implications without accounting for the Israeli factor, for no Lebanese is naïve enough to ascertain that political reform can be had without an increased threat in security. Thus the topic of political reform amongst Lebanese is one that cannot be viewed in a vacuum lest its multiple dimensions are ignored.
In the absence of a unified social contract, many Lebanese have come to view various policy initiatives through a sectarian prism. This is clearly reflected in the above data whereby the atmosphere of mutual distrust amongst Lebanon’s sects has been nothing short of palpable, creating a stalemate ultimately defined by political paralysis, social discord and conceptual