Lebanon’s Failed Political System

The system is weak by design and never found sure footing besides.

Lebanon is celebrating its centennial in 2020, a year defined by existential economic crisis made worse by a pandemic and endemic political paralysis. The country was awkward from the start. France’s high commission for the Levant announced its creation in 1920, three years before the League of Nations named France its mandatory power following the Lausanne Treaty. It’s ironic that France, Europe’s most secular nation, chose to create the world’s only confessional system, but it didn’t have much of a choice: The only proposal they received came from the Maronite Church since Muslims, mostly the Sunnis, refused to accept the Lebanese entity and preferred to merge with Syria. The state that followed came without foundations and so is now sinking into lawlessness and strife. Corruption and Accountability In 1926, a group of Christian business elite drafted Lebanon’s Constitution, which removed most state prerogatives to the country’s various sects. It rendered the religious groups unaccountable and unanswerable, literally granting politicians immunity from prosecution. The founders of Lebanon adopted rentier capitalism, invented Phoenician nationalism and dubbed the system they created the “Lebanese miracle.” Rather than wanting to create a Lebanese nation, the founding fathers wanted to preserve the identities of the country’s […]

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Hilal Khashan
Hilal Khashan is a Professor of political science at the American University of Beirut. He is a respected author and analyst of Middle Eastern affairs. He is the author of six books, including Hizbullah: A Mission to Nowhere. (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2019.) He is currently writing a book titled Saudi Arabia: The Dilemma of Political Reform and the Illusion of Economic Development. He is also the author of more than 110 articles that appeared in journals such as Orbis, The Journal of Conflict Resolution, The Brown Journal of World Affairs, Middle East Quarterly, Third World Quarterly, Israel Affairs, Journal of Religion and Society, Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, and The British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies.