The constitution was adopted in 1926 under the French colonial control (mandate). It was critical to creating bureaucratic legal, & ideological foundations of the Republic of Lebanon in its current borders (grande liban), separate to and independent from what became Syria.
Lebanon did not become independent from french colonialism until 1943. The 1926 Constitution set up a parliamentary system of governance with strong executive powers concentrated in the office of the President. The constitution is a classically liberal document, in that it sacralizes individual civil and political rights (religion, expression etc) & a capitalist free market economy.. This means that the freedom of residence, for example, refers to the right to live anywhere in the country, which should not be confused with the right TO a residence.
There has always been a structural contradiction between the constitution and various laws—most glaring is nationality law— that discriminate against women.
Article 7 of the constitution is clear. "All Lebanese shall be equal before the law. They shall equally enjoy civil and political rights and shall equally be bound by public obligations and duties without any distinction ``. [note, again, economic rights are absent]
The Constitution gives organized religions personal rights to “their own” school systems & family laws. The Troika system, where exec. power is split betw Presidency, Pres. of Parliament & tPrime Minister along sectarian lines is NOT IN THE CONSTITUTION
The National Pact (NP), which was written on a napkin and never officially recorded (i swear this is the story), created a power sharing agreement between Muslims and Christians within the executive branch, and it was dominated by Sunnis and Maronites.
The NP installed the power sharing system of gov we live under today, although it is nowhere in law. The unwritten nature of the NP has created crisis over the years between the troika system & the constitution (for ex when Amin Gemeyel appointed Michel Aoun to be Prime Minister.
The National Pact was the Sunni and Mulism elite “buy in” to a state Independent from Syria. Thus, although it is not law, it a historical condition of the Lebanese state and country. The constitution was revised after the civil war (1975-1990) to include the Taif Accord, the peace agreement that ended the war. Under Taif executive power was further reshuffled between the President, the Prime Minister, and the President of Parliament. This has resulted in periodic paralysis and stagnation.
Even if the executive offices are no longer distributed along sectarian lines, it will still be a structural problem. The Taif Accord also added seats to Parliament and recalibrated according to equal Christian Muslim representation (previously unequal in favor of Christians)
The constitution has always treated political sectarianism as a temporary solution & in fact calls for and sets measures for a national & unified, non-sectarian liberal democracy. But remember we are talking about liberal IDEOLOGY here.
The Taif Accord, and the Constitution before it, has never been fully implemented. There is a structural contradiction between the Constitution and the National Pact.
Upon the election of a non-sectarian government, the constitution calls for another chamber of religious leaders to be elected with very limited power on what are called “national issues” critical that every government post-Taif has violated the constitution bc it has not legislated & enacted a national and non-sectarian electoral law. This is a crucial point for protestors. The government, not the people in the streets, are in violation of #Lebanese Constitution
The Lebanese Constitution, like all constitutions, is a flawed document. It offers a way out of the current impasse and gives important discursive and ideological power to the #lebanonprotest. But it must be reformed and rethought, including but not limited to: equal rights, a national civil marriage law & curricula, economic rights & rights for non-citizens. This is the perfect time to imagine what we WANT out of our Constitution, not only what it demands. We can think a new social contract. “Imagining otherwise” is a political act.
I wrote more about the #Taif Accord and its political, economic, and constitutional effects in @jadaliyya recently.
*Clarification. I meant national personal status law. Difference is that civil marriage law leaves inheritance & other parts of religious personal status law intact. A national personal status law, however, implies complete revocation of religious personal status #LebanonProtests