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Lebanon Politics

State and politics

GOVERNMENT

Lebanon's political system is largely based on the so-called National Pact of 1943, an oral agreement between Christians and Muslims to maintain balance between them and distribute the political records according to religious affiliation. According to the Pact, the President would be Maronite (Christian), Prime Minister Sunni Muslim and President Shiam Muslim, a rule that is still in force. The number of Christians and Muslims, respectively, would be proportional to 6: 5 in the distribution of the then 99 seats in Parliament. This distribution of power was based on the country's last census, organized by the French in 1932.

Political System of Lebanon

The national pact made the emergence of a strong state power and a party system based on political issues and ideology impossible. Loyalty to the family, the clan, the village or the religious community was more important than the loyalty to the state. By safeguarding their group's interests, the leaders of these families and clans also gained political influence. Over time, the division between Muslims and Christians that institutionalized the sectarian system came to increasingly correspond to reality. Although no new census was carried out, it is believed that Muslims, partly because of higher birth rates and partly because of extensive emigration of Christians, had become a majority of the country's population in the 1970s. See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for how LE can stand for Lebanon.

Demands for extensive economic and political reforms grew. Tensions between the various groups formed the core of the civil war that broke out in 1975 and lasted until 1989. A number of external actors, especially Syria and Israel, also joined the war allied to various Lebanese groups. The 1989 Taif Agreement, which formally ended the war, indirectly reaffirmed Syria's grip on Lebanon. The agreement limited Lebanon's sovereignty, as did Israel's occupation of the so-called security zone in the south.

In the Taif agreement, Lebanon was pushed closer to Syria, while the framework for a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon was established. Furthermore, the agreement stipulated that all militias should be disarmed. The exception was Hizbullah, who was allowed to continue his military fight against Israel in southern Lebanon. The Taif agreement also entailed changes in the political system to more accurately reflect the composition of the changing population.

In 1990, the number of seats in Parliament was increased to 128 and these are evenly distributed between Christians and Muslims. 34 of the 64 places reserved for Christians are assigned to Maronites and the rest are distributed among the other Christian communities. Of the Muslims' mandates, Sunnis and Shiites get 27 each, eight drink and two Alawites.

Since 1990, the Prime Minister has been appointed by Parliament and not, as before, by the President. The Taif agreement thus meant a shift in power in favor of Parliament and the increased representation of the Muslim population. By contrast, the Taif Agreement did not change the sectarian element of Lebanese politics but rather divided political power according to religious affiliation. Also, with the provisions on the number of seats per group, there is no flexibility in the system to adapt to changes in the population belonging to the population.

The election system adopted in 2017 meant a combination of proportional and personal choices, but the sectarian division was maintained.

Policy

The domination of the old families in Lebanon's politics broke with the 1992 elections, the first in 20 years. In protest against Syria's grip on the country, the elections in 1992 and 1996 were boycotted by the Maronites, Lebanon's traditional power elite, which thus fell outside the political process.

The country's strong man became the new prime minister, Sunni Muslim and billionaire Rafiq al-Hariri (1944-2005). He led most Lebanese governments in 1992-98 and 2001-04. Rafiq al-Hariri led an ambitious reconstruction of Lebanon, primarily Beirut. With his strong ties with Saudi Arabia, as a financier, and for a long time also with Syria, al-Hariri was a dynamic leader of the country.

In 1998, Army Chief Émile Lahoud (born 1936) was elected President. Lahoud advocated continued cooperation with Syria and supported Hizbullah's fight against Israel in southern Lebanon. Lahoud was re-elected in 2004, following Syrian pressure and in direct conflict with the country's constitution, for another three-year term. Rafiq al-Hariri had now swayed in his political views and emerged after his departure in 2004 as leader of the opposition against both President Lahoud and the continued Syrian presence in Lebanon.

Rafiq al-Hariri was killed in a bomb attack in February 2005. The blame for this attack, as well as the subsequent murders of six other politicians and journalists, all critical of the Syrian occupation, were laid by the country's Christians and drushes on Syria and on pro-Syrian elements in Lebanon. Rafiq al-Hariri's death led to widespread demonstrations and increased tension in the country. The immediate result was the Syrian military retreat from Lebanon in April 2005. In addition, the demonstrations led to an even clearer division of Lebanese politics between pro-Syrian and anti-Syrian alliances. The demonstration, held on March 8, became a testament to the Shiite Muslim parties Hizbullah and Amal, as well as its allies supporting the Syrian presence. On March 14, the opposition held a demonstration that gathered forces against Syria's presence in Lebanon.The Future Movement, the Christian Party Lebanese Forces, and the Christian Patriarchate Free Patriotic Movement started by Michel Aoun. These two demonstrations became the starting point for a long-lasting divide in Lebanese politics between the March 8 Alliance and the March 14 Alliance.

The 2005 parliamentary elections in Beirut and northern Lebanon became a victory for anti-Syrian politicians, most allied with Rafiq's son Saad al-Hariri. In southern Lebanon and Beka Valley, representatives of the two rival Shia groups, Amal ('Hope') and Hizbullah ('Party of God'), won almost every mandate. The big surprise came in the Maronites' heartland, northeast of Beirut, where most of the mandates were won by candidates allied with former General Michel Aoun who returned to Lebanon in 2005 after going into exile in France since the end of the civil war. However, the end result was that of the anti-Syrian Martyr Rafiq al-Hariri's listwon with 72 seats and thus gained a majority in the new National Assembly. The Amal-Hizbullah Alliance won 33 seats, Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement 21 while the two remaining mandates went to independent candidates. The number of women elected was six (4.7 percent of all members).

The Lebanese coalition government of July 2005, dominated by al-Hariri's anti-Syrian March 14 alliance and led by Sunni Muslim Fuad Siniora, was boycotted by Hizbullah and its allies in November 2006 and considered by them to be illegal. In the fall of 2006, the Free Patriotic Movement entered into a formal political alliance with Hizbullah, the so-called March 8 Alliance, led by Hizbullah leader Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah (born circa 1960) and Michel Aoun.

The opposition demanded the resignation of the government and that new elections should be announced. When President Lahoud's term of office expired in November 2007, the country was also without a head of state. The political turmoil in the country intensified and culminated in 2008 with clashes between Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims in Beirut, but also with the spread to the rest of the country. Under the threat of a new civil war, Qatar negotiated between the parties, resulting in the Doha Agreement.

The 2008 Doha Agreement temporarily resolved the protracted governmental crisis in Lebanon. The agreement meant, among other things, that the opposition, with Hizbullah at the head, re-entered the government but now with veto rights, a requirement that the opposition has pushed since 2006. Furthermore, Michel Suleiman was appointed president.

In the 2009 election, Saad al-Harari's party Future Movement was the largest with 37 seats, followed by Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement with 19 seats. After lengthy government negotiations, the Free Patriotic Movement and its allies joined a coalition government led by al-Harari. In 2011, the government was reformed and now came under the leadership of Prime Minister Najib Mikati (born 1955).

Mikati left the post of prime minister following increased tensions between anti- and pro-Syrian groupings in Lebanon. Independent candidate and Sunni Tammam Salam (born 1945) took over the Prime Minister's post and formed a new government. In 2016, Michel Aoun succeeded Michel Suleiman at the presidential post.

The Arab Spring has influenced Lebanese politics. Since the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, the various blocs in Lebanese politics have allied with or against the Syrian regime, led by Bashar al-Asad, and have also been involved in outright fighting in Syrian territory. The March 8 alliance has preferably supported the Asad regime, while the March 14 alliance has supported the opposition. Clashes in Lebanon as a result of the war in Syria have also occurred.

The regional power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran also has a strong impact on Lebanon. A concrete example of this was demonstrated in the fall of 2017, when Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri unexpectedly announced his departure during a visit to Riyadh. He referred to threats to Lebanon and his personal security from Iran and Hizbullah. Neither the outside world nor the political elite in Beirut perceived the message as genuine and, following pressure from Saudi Arabia from a number of western countries, al-Hariri returned to Beirut and made his decision.

Nine years after the last election, a new parliamentary election could finally be held in May 2018. Both the Free Patriotic Movement and Hizbullah and its partners progressed, while the Future Movement lost a third of its mandates compared to the previous elections. However, since the Prime Minister is supposed to be a Sunni Muslim, the Future Movement's al-Hariri was allowed to remain as head of government. Only after nine months of negotiations could a new government be presented in January 2019. Of 30 ministers, four were women. Hizbullah was appointed three ministers.

Only nine months after the government was formed, large-scale protests broke out on October 17, 2019. The triggering factor was the government's decision to introduce a so-called WhatsApp tax for telephone calls via social media, which many Lebanese depend on in a country with one of the world's highest prices. on mobile calls. But the protests were really based on a far-reaching dissatisfaction with the political elite, its inability to provide basic community service, address Lebanon's growing budget deficit, and widespread corruption.

The extensive protests took place in several parts of the country and people mobilized across religious divides for a common cause. Following the initial demand that the tax on social media be removed, it was agreed behind the demand for government resignation. The movement joined the country's unified political elite, which was surprising in the sectarian-divided Lebanon. On October 29, 2019, Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri resigned and thus the government collapsed.

Instead of disappearing from politics, al-Hariri was assigned by the president to be acting prime minister until the new government was formed, which happened in 2020. A new prime minister then became Hassan Diab (born 1959).

Judiciary

The law in Lebanon is mostly codified, but with the exception of family law, where the religious rights of the various population groups are followed. The codifications are strongly influenced by French, and the courts are also inclined to seek solutions in other French legal texts and case law.

The country's highest courts are the Court of Cassation and the Court of Auditors, which deal only with legal issues and do not reconsider the assessment of facts. The sub-bodies include small-scale courts, general courts (district courts) and appellate courts. The first instance in criminal cases is appealed directly to the Court of Cassation. Administrative law cases are being examined by the so-called Council of State (Conseil d'État). The death penalty can be punished for some serious crimes.

Human Rights

Perhaps the most distinctive feature of Lebanon's social and political structure is its varied religious composition. Historically, the country has served as a sanctuary for persecuted Christian and Muslim sects.

As a result of the war in Syria, the security situation deteriorated seriously in Lebanon 2013 as the violence spilled over the country's borders. Sectarian tensions led to several fatal clashes in the cities of Tripoli and Saida, and Alawite citizens were largely exposed to attacks.

The most significant human rights violations reported are torture and abuse by the country's security forces, inhuman prison and detention conditions and restrictions on the free movement of Palestinian and Syrian refugees. Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have no political rights. Impunity exists for government officials and security forces at the same time as several reports testify to the brutality of the security forces against primarily members of the LGBTQ group.

Women are largely active in education and politics, but the patriarchal structure disadvantages them when it comes to family policy. Women do not have the same right to demand divorce, and in the event of divorce, she often runs the risk of losing custody of the children. Lebanese women are also discriminated against when it comes to inheritance law.

Although Lebanon's print media has periodically been exposed to a certain degree of political influence, the country's press still remains among the freest in the Arab world. TV and radio, on the other hand, are more heavily controlled by the authorities. In Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index for 2015, Lebanon is ranked 98 out of 180.

Heads of State

Presidents

1943-52 Bishara al-Khuri
1952-58 Camille Chamoun
1958-64 Fuad Shihab
1964-70 Charles Hilu (Helou)
1970-76 Sulayman Franjiya (Franjieh)
1976-82 Elias Sarkis
1982 Bashir Gemayel *
1982-88 Amin Gemayel
1989 Ren谷 Muawwad
1989-98 Elias Hrawi
1998-2007 Emile Lahoud
2008-14 Michel Suleiman **
2016- Michel Aoun

* Elected president but murdered before taking office.
** After Suleiman's resignation in 2014, the presidential post was vacant until 2016. During these two years, the government maintained the president's functions.

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