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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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10. The Political Economy of Lebanon


In addition to political power sharing, Lebanon’s economy is likewise “confessionalized.” There are important “rentieristic” qualities of the confessional economy, which are tied into foreign powers buying strategic geopolitical influence. Its foundations feature critical formal and informal infrastructures that consolidate political patronage along confessional lines. Its rules center around nepotistic networks that assert influence and allegiance but also consolidate communitarian solidarity. These dynamics set in motion confessional competition and communitarian bargaining over the sharing of private and public benefits. The confessional economy’s development brings important communal prosperity yet undermines crosscutting cleavage formations essential for a national economy. An ailing public sector built around confessional domains with a zero-sum game approach expands the public deficit beyond recovery. This chapter examines the different features of Lebanon’s contemporary confessional political economy and its future prospects.

The State of the State

Lebanon has a “weak state”1 with a “least functional” government.2 Consociational politics has been cursed by a fragmented political elite that has historically governed the country under a zero-sum game political approaches. Relevant to this ←163 | 164→characterization is a constitutional prerogative requiring the “ ‘inclusion” ’ and the participation of “all” the country’s sects in governance. This is spelled out in the Preamble of the Constitution, announcing that “[t] here shall be no constitutional legitimacy for any authority which contradicts the pact of mutual existence.” This comprehensive “inclusion clause” has been incorporated in the confessional allocation of seats in Parliament, the distribution of public offices, and the composition...

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