The Government and Politics of Lebanon

Second Edition

by Imad Salamey (Author)
©2021 Textbook XVIII, 304 Pages


The Government and Politics of Lebanon, Second Edition describes the special attributes of Lebanese politics and the functions of its confessional state. It aims to contribute to the reader’s understanding of contemporary Lebanese politics, consensus building, and government. It stimulates discussion concerning the nature of consociationalism as a power sharing arrangement for a divided society. The book captures the complexity of Lebanese politics by revealing the challenges embedded in the management of plurality, including institutional paralysis and system stagnations. The second edition features new and expanded chapters that pay particular attention to state’s adaptations to post-Arab Spring politics. It expands the analysis on the performance of the Lebanese consociational state in light of turbulent regional environment and the various repercussions associated with regional conflict. It is divided into several parts. The first introduces the particular form and foundations of Lebanese consociationalism and provides an elaborate description of its special features. The second part explains the different rules of the game as institutionalized in the country’s international and domestic power sharing arrangements. It describes the international politics of Lebanon and the influence exerted by regional powers in shaping its domestic affairs. It explains the manifestation of domestic parties and electoral systems in the power distribution among the country’s different sectarian and ethnic groups. It analyzes the political economy of communitarian politics. The third part focuses on the contemporary powers and functions of the different branches of government as well as their institutional expression of sectarian interests. The fourth part of the book places Lebanese consociationalism in light of contemporary regional turmoil and describes state’s responsiveness in mitigating and managing conflicts, particularly those associated with the spillover from the Syrian conflict.

Table Of Contents

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Foreword: Why the Government and Politics of Lebanon 2nd Edition?

The ancient political question regarding which form of government is the best continues to puzzle the minds of contemporary political thinkers. The choice has proven increasingly critical to the survival of nations as more countries have begun their political journeys toward democracy. The fact that societies and nations vary by historic, geographic, economic, religious, regional, cultural, and racial peculiarities now more than ever has required delicate considerations in the formulation of political choices. Indeed, the global diversity of nations and societies has transformed the choice of governance, making it among the most critical decisions in determining the existence, stability, and tranquility of nations.

Political experiences have taught us the grave consequences that await nations when their governance choices are made without cultural and political considerations. Many multiethnic, postcolonial states in Africa and the Middle East, among others, have suffered the consequences of ill-founded governing institutions. In 1994, the Hutu-dominated Rwandan government provoked a campaign of ethnic cleansing that resulted in the massacre of more than one million Rwandan Tutsis. In South Africa, the system of apartheid led to racial segregation and eventually to racial and ethnic conflicts throughout the postcolonial period. In fact, the governing choice for a plural society has proven to be among the most crucial political decisions, particularly in divisive and transitional societies.

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Democratic consociationalism has been proposed as one of the possible suitable forms of governance for societies that are deeply divided along ethnic, linguistic, religious, cultural, and racial lines. In 1943, Lebanon became one of the earliest states to adopt consociationalism. This resulted in mixed outcomes: On the one hand, compared with other co-Arab states, consociationalism has provided the country with an exceptional democratic political life. It has resulted in a limited government with a strong confessional division of power and a built-in checks and balances mechanism, rendering impossible the emergence of dictatorship or monarchy. On the other hand, the many weaknesses of the state have undermined nation building in favor of sectarian fragmentation and strong polarization that have periodically brought the country to the verge of total collapse and civil war. Whether the Lebanese form of democratic consociationalism is an appropriate governing model for a divided society continues to puzzle political scientists and divide them between enthusiasts and critics.

What is evident, however, is that the studies of contemporary Lebanese consociationalism have lacked a systematic and comprehensive evaluation. This is obviously because of the contention over different interpretations of Lebanese political history, a fact that has prevented Lebanon from adopting a unified history textbook. This book aims to take on the daunting task of providing the first comprehensive, scholarly examination of contemporary Lebanese politics throughout its different consociational experiences, knowing in advance that this may stir both praise and criticism. But perhaps it is only through this instigated inquisition that the research can progress and scholars can magnify their inquiries to improve interpretations.

It shall be noted throughout this book that the study of Lebanese politics is unique in various ways, most importantly because of the fact that it continues to evolve around the struggle of state and nation building. A century-old protracted national identity crisis has kept Lebanese divided over the role and function of the state. The result has been the emergence of a dynamic polity contested by a static state institution, rendering the study of Lebanese politics and government in a state of permanent flux. Indeed, a foreign observer can note that Lebanese politics is vibrant, constantly changing, and critically intertwined by global developments. No country as small as Lebanon has so persistently attracted world attentions and interventions. The country’s charming nature, cultural and religious diversity, relative liberalism, strategic location, and global accessibility have captivated foreign imaginations. During its internal strife and many other crises, invasions, and wars, the stakes were heightened to involve other countries, with implications for ideological struggles, East-Western relations, and worldly ←xvi | xvii→religious coexistence. Consequently, Lebanon has come to strongly impact and to be impacted by regional and international politics.

Another claim advanced in this book is that the Lebanese consociationalism is fundamentally static, contributing to a recurrent cycle of political stalemates and paralyses. The state’s robustness is the outcome of a delicate sectarian balance of power that has opposed institutional modification. Fearing the loss of sectarian privileges, sectarian elites have obstructed genuine structural reforms, a reality that has prevented the country from developing modern and transparent public institutionalism. The rigidity of the state institutions has turned any effort for reform or change into a conflict-ridden process leading to major outbreaks in communal violence.

The second edition provides an update to Lebanese politics, in which the major ramifications of post-Arab Spring politics are discussed. The political economy of Lebanon is particularly examined in a new chapter that highlights major challenges confronting the very foundations of consociationalism in the post-Arab Spring era. Thus, four subsequent Lebanese consociationalist republics are introduced: National Pact, Taef, Doha, and Arab Spring.

To capture the political dynamic of the consociational state in Lebanon throughout different historic periods, this book is divided into several parts. Chapter 1 provides a general typology of political systems that are widely implemented in the world as a way to introduce the Lebanese consociational system and its rational. Then, Chapters 2 to 6 provide a general historic overview of Lebanese consociational politics. They examine the general foundations of sectarian consociationalism as established by the various pre-and post-independence power-sharing arrangements. They discuss sectarian politics of conflict and concession as well as the underlying domestic and international driving forces at different historic junctures. Chapters 7 to 10 analyze the contemporary politics of Lebanon, including the role played by foreign countries, the political economy, sectarian groups, political leaders, political parties, and elections. Chapters 11 to 13 introduce the power sharing arrangements as institutionalized by the consociational governments of Lebanon. They focus on the contemporary powers and functions of the different branches of government, as well as their institutional manifestations of sectarian consociationalism. Chapter 14 concludes with prospects for the sectarian state in light of contemporary political changes and regional upheavals.

Hence, the aim of this book is to contribute to the reader a greater understanding of Lebanese politics and government. It seeks to instigate a dialog among general readers and students about the nature of consociationalism and its ←xvii | xviii→suitability as a form of governance for plural and divided societies. Such a dialog can not only help Lebanon assert and/or revise its governing structure but may very well assist similar states in the Middle East and elsewhere to establish an appropriate formulation of governance.

Imad Salamey



XVIII, 304
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2021 (March)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2021. XVIII, 304 pp., 11 b/w ill., 18 tables.

Biographical notes

Imad Salamey (Author)

Imad Salamey is Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at the Lebanese American University. His books The Decline of Nation-States after the Arab Spring: The Rise of Communitocracy and Post-Conflict Power-Sharing Agreements: Options for Syria survey the root causes of rising ethnic and sectarian polarization and post-conflict peace building options in the MENA countries. Salamey serves as a monitoring and evaluation expert and policy advisor for various international and regional organizations.


Title: The Government and Politics of Lebanon
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324 pages