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The Government and Politics of Lebanon

Second Edition

Imad Salamey

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.
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2. Origin of Lebanese Political Sectarianism


This chapter summarizes the modern origins of Lebanese political sectarianism, dating back to the insurrection of Mount Lebanon in 1841. It gives a chronological account of European involvement and the development of Lebanon’s partition into two administrative areas between the Maronite Christians and Druze. It discusses the evolution of the first constitutional arrangement—the Organic Laws of Lebanon (Règlement Organique du Liban)—illustrating the early political institutionalization of sectarian division, as well as detailing different periods in the development of the region, including the period of modernization and prosperity (1861–1914) and the League of Nations’ French Mandate (1922–1943). It also discusses the first Lebanese Constitution of 1926 and the power sharing system created for the 18 officially recognized sects.

Driving Forces for System Change

In Lebanon, with its small, densely populated, geostrategically significant territory and heterogeneous, communally divided society, consociationalism has been presented as an appropriate form of government within which internal sectarian differences can be resolved. Even before the establishment of the Republic of Lebanon in 1943, consociationalism, also referred to as confessionalism, has ←17 | 18→been the preferred political/institutional arrangement within which sectarian competition for socioeconomic and political power was managed. The evolution of geopolitical confessional arrangements in Lebanon throughout its modern history has been driven by internal political demography, on one hand, and external events, on the other—namely, the strategic regional proxy role played out by sectarian groups. Inter-and intra-geopolitical changes have exerted tremendous pressure for the rearrangement of...

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