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Confessionalism (politics)

Confessionalism (Arabic: محاصصة طائفية: Muhassasah taifiyya‎) is a system of government that refers to de jure mix of religion and politics. It can mean distributing political and institutional power proportionally among religious communities.


Proponents of confessionalism[who?] cite it as an effective way to secure the peaceful co-existence of diverse religious and ethnic communities by empowering each according to its "weight" in the region. However, critics point out that such a system may actually deepen conflict between ethnic groups. They argue that whichever group holds the most political power may use government to favour itself at the expense of other groups, or even to oppress rival groups. Also, as demographics change, the positions and power held by a particular group may no longer appropriately reflect the size of that group.

Debate over confessionalism raises similar issues to those facing consociationalism, of which confessionalism is one kind.[original research?]

The Levant

The repartition of assembly seats on a confessional base in the Middle East was inaugurated by the Ottoman Empire (e.g. in the Ottoman Parliament) and went on in several post-Ottoman countries with reserved seats for non-Muslim (Christian) minorities (Syria, Jordan, Iraq ), or for all religious communities including Muslim subgroups and Christian churches (Lebanon). A similar system prevails in Iran for the Armenian, Assyrian, Jewish and Zoroastrian minorities.


Main articles: National Pact and Taif Agreement

Although it was meant to be a temporary solution "Until such time as the Chamber enacts new electoral laws on a non-confessional basis",[1] more than eighty years later confessionalism is still the system of government implemented in Lebanon. All posts in government and seats in the legislature are apportioned amongst different religious groups according to a political agreement, as the relative demographic weight of those groups is unknown.[2] The constitution of 1926, amended after the Taif Agreement of 1990 and the Doha agreement of 2008 specified that there should be 54 Christian deputies and 54 Muslim deputies (in practice there are 64 deputies each).[3] Within those two groups also seats should be shared according to the demographic weight of each community.[4] Allocation of seats. The Lebanese constitution also guarantee segmental autonomy to 18 recognized communities in the country in domains such as education.[5] Lebanon also presents other characteristics of confessionalism. Since 2005 Lebanese politics has been polarized around two trans-religious coalition[6] with the majority never able to govern alone. There is however another section of the constitution that addresses the development of outside parties not represented by popular support.


In the politics of the Netherlands the term "confessionalism" refers to any political ideology based on religion.

Dutch parties usually labelled as confessionalist are the ChristianUnion and the Reformed Political Party, both exclusively Protestant, less often the Christian Democratic Appeal which has also several Muslims among its elected officials.

There are also minor Dutch Muslim parties, e.g. the Dutch Muslim Party (Nederlandse Moslim Partij[7]) that has many common programmatical aims with the ChristianUnion[8] and the local (The Hague) party Islam Democrats (Islam Democraten).[9] In January 2008, the creation of an Islamic Democratic Party (Islamitische Democratische Partij) was announced, but it appeared after a few days it was a hoax, its programme was actually an adaptated copy of the programme of the Protestant fundamentalist Reformed Political Party.[10][11][12][13] The only Muslim parties with political representation in the Netherlands are Islam Democrats and its splinter group Party of Unity, each with one councillor in The Hague municipal council.

See also


  1. ^ Lebanese constitution, article 24
  2. ^ Harb, Imad (March 2006). "Lebanon's Confessionalism: Problems and Prospects". United States Institute of Peace. Retrieved 2006-07-30. 
  3. ^ Lebanese constitution, article 24 subsection a
  4. ^ Lebanese constitution, article 24 subsection b
  5. ^ Lebanese constitution, article 9 and 10
  6. ^ Confessionalism and electoral reform in Lebanon, section 3, Arda Arsenian Ekmekji, Ph.D.
  7. ^ French: Pierre-Yves Lambert, Nederlandse Moslim Partij, Suffrage Universel
  8. ^ Dutch: NMP en CU eensgezind, De Pers, 15 February 2010
  9. ^ French: Pierre-Yves Lambert, Islam Democraten, Suffrage Universel
  10. ^ Dutch: Islamitische politieke partij wil hoofddoek in openbare gebouwen verplichten, Nieuw Religieus Peil (blog), 4 January 2008
  11. ^ Dutch: Robert Engel, Islamitisch Democratische Partij is hoax, Lucaswashier (blog), 5 January 2008
  12. ^ Dutch: Oprichting IDP is een hoax met een boodschap, 6 January 2008
  13. ^ French: Pierre-Yves Lambert, Islamitische Democratische Partij, Suffrage Universel