World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010

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Transformation from Politics based on Communal Identities to Cross-communal National Parties through the Electoral System: The cases of Iraq and Lebanon (078) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: TUE 20, 9.00-11.00 am

· NOT_DEFINED institution: Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (Japan)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Keiko SAKAI

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: It has long been argued that multi-ethnic/multi-communal states such as Iraq and Lebanon were more divided as autonomous societies based on a shared communal identity than integrated as a single nation. In these countries, it has been understood that political arrangements were traditionally pursued through informal ethnic/communal networks, represented by certain political groups based on communal societies. Confessionalism in Lebanon is a case typical to this pattern, and a similar pattern of political representation can be seen in Iraq after 2003, where political coalitions were formed according to communal/ethnic lines. This does not mean, however, that identity politics are inevitable in these countries in any political environments or in any international settings. Considering that both countries have suffered from wars and civil wars which resulted in the lack of a stable central state apparatus, it is natural to say that society plays an alternative role for the function of the weak or failed state, thus the social movement organisations based on the communal/ethnic networks play more political roles in representing the local communities and in power-sharing in national politics. The question that should be raised here is whether such a representation pattern based on ethnic/communal bonds will remain after democratic institutions are introduced, or this is only a temporal phenomenon before cross-communal political parties are to be formed to represent a national identity. In this panel, we will focus on the transformation of political parties in Iraq after the experience of three national elections and one provincial election, and on the emergence of cross-communal nationalism in Lebanon after the withdrawal of Syrian forces in 2005.

Chair: Keiko Sakai, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies

Paper presenter: Dai Yamao (Kyoto University), “Beyond the Sectarian Conflict in Post-war Iraqi Politics: The Turn to Nationalism in the Iraqi National Assembly Election of January 2010”
This paper aims to clarify how Iraqi sectarian politics changed during the National Assembly election of January 2010, as well as the reason why this shift occurred. Iraqi politics after the U.S. invasion have been considered as ‘sectarianist.’ This is because each party mobilized the Iraqi people based on their ethnic and religious sects in the two national elections in 2005. In addition to this, the chain of violence appears to have occurred along the cleavages between ethnic and religious sects. However, an increasing number of political parties began to mobilize beyond sectarian differences in terms of party alliance in the National Assembly election of January 2010. Iraqi voters, as well, have begun to vote for a national integration policy and centralized government policy, instead of relying only upon their ethnic and religious sects. A poll survey, conducted inside Iraq in November 2009, shows that voters have expressed this political preference. Thus, this paper proves that the shift from sectarian to nationwide mobilization was achieved in this election, and that the shift from voting based on sectarian segments to voting based on policies was witnessed. The paper will further argue why these shifts have occurred.

Paper presenter: Kota Suechika (Ritsumeikan University), “If Not Democracy nor Authoritarianism, What Simultaneous Equations of Lebanon’s Power Sharing after the 2005 Syrian Withdrawal?”
Although the 2005 Syrian withdrawal was expected to bring about the end of authoritarianism and then democratization, Lebanon today is still far from democracy; its power sharing formulae based on confessionalism is hardly functioning as a means of democracy, rather flaming the traditional sectarian intractableness among the political forces. Thus Lebanese politics is seen as neither democracy nor authoritarianism. However, some signs of change are being observed; i.e. a nationwide call and respect for the principles of democracy and nationalism and agenda-based cross-sectarian coalitions among the political forces. How can we understand this recent development in Lebanese politics, and what has brought it about? To answer these questions, this research is intended to formulate the intra-action of Lebanon’s power sharing by referring to its inter-action with international relations in particular. It also tries to suggest an analytical framework for the so-called ‘domestic/international two-level consensus’ concerning Lebanon’s power sharing as well as sovereignty.

Paper presenter: Keiko Sakai (Tokyo University of Foreign Studies), “Roots of ''Sunni Triangle'' in the Modern History of Iraq”
This paper will focus on the process how the central governorates of Iraq were considered as “Sunni Trinalgle”, and as priviladged groups in the previous regimes in Iraq. Politicisation of the communal identities emerged rapidly after 2003 in Iraq, but the pattern of political mobilisation and integration process contrastingly differ between Shiites and Sunnis. “Sunni-ness” became highlighted as a key commonality for political representation and mobilisation in the central governorates only after 2003. It was mainly as a reaction to the emergence of Shiite political alliance in the national election in 2004, and against exclusion of “Sunnis” from the political process in the early stage post-war period, considered as an elite group that supported former regime. This paper will clarify how the political and military elites circles were formulated historically, based on local, tribal and kinship networks, which should be carefully distinguished from the social identity of “Sunni-ness”.