Basic information about the territory
- System of governance and political tendencies in the country
- Foreign policy of the country
The system of governance and political tendencies in the country
Country name: Republic of Lebanon (Al-Jumhuriya al-Lubnaniyya)
Lebanon is a parliamentary republic based on the 1926 constitution with the 1943 amendment (declaration of independence). The amendment was supplemented by the Taif Agreements of 1989, which ended the 15-year civil war. A specific feature of Lebanon is the presence of 18 religious communities, and the current system is set up to prevent clashes between them. The top constitutional posts are therefore divided_ the president (a Maronite Christian), the speaker of the parliament (a Shiite Muslim) and the prime minister (a Sunni Muslim).
Head of State: The President is Michel Aoun, elected on 31 October 2016.
Parliament: Elections to the unicameral parliament (National Assembly, 128 members) take place for a 4-year term based on the so-called political confessionalism based on the Taif Agreements. The 128 seats are proportionally divided into constituencies according to the requirements for a certain religion (Christian and Muslim parties have an identical number of seats available – 64). Of the ten religions present in the parliament, the Christian Maronite Church is most strongly represented (33 seats), followed by the Shiites and Sunnis (27 seats each). Since 1992, the speaker of the parliament has been Nabíh Berrí (chairman of the Amal Shiite movement). The last election took place on May 15, 2022, the official results have not yet been announced.
Government: The current “technocratic” government, headed by Hassan Diab, was appointed on January 21, 2020, following the resignation of Saad Hariri (as a result of the political, social and economic crisis that has persisted since the fall of 2019. The government resigned following the explosion in Beirut port in August 2020. As of today (May 2021), Lebanon remains de facto without a government. Saad Hariri has been re-designated as Prime Minister, but disagreements between him and President Aoun over the composition of the government cabinet remain and the actual formation of a new government is not in sight. The current government consists of the prime minister and 19 ministers.
Political tendencies: Lebanon is currently facing multiple crises ranging from internal political, economic, financial to social and health. The constantly worsening economic situation, the inability of the government to provide for the basic needs of its residents (electricity, drinking water, garbage collection, etc.) and the disproportionate increase in taxes led to the launch of large-scale demonstrations in October 2019. Demonstrators across society called for an end to the current system based on confessional distribution and for the resignation of the political elites who have benefited from this system for their personal gain for decades. The demonstrations resulted in the resignation of Saad Hariri’s government. In early 2020, a new government was formed, which was presented as a government of experts who would pursue structural reforms in the country. Unfortunately, due to the weak mandate to push through any changes, this government also finally resigned in August 2020 in response to the tragic explosion in the port of Beirut on 08/04/2020. resigned to form a government. He thus ended a nine-month marathon of negotiations inside and outside the country, when he was looking for support for his candidacy and the next government composition. Subsequently, on July 26, 2021, “old-time” Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who led the government in 2005 and then in 2011-2013, was appointed Prime Minister-designate and tasked with forming the government. In the end, Mikati managed to form a government, which was helped by both the progressing crisis in the country and pressure from the outside, especially from FR, the USA and Iran. Mikati’s government managed to resume negotiations with the IMF on financial assistance for Lebanon, and in April 2021 a preliminary agreement was reached on the provision of $3 billion in aid to be released over 4 years (or 46 months) provided that Lebanon meets in the coming weeks specific conditions defined by the IMF and further financial assistance from international donors will be confirmed. The political scene was shaken in February by the announcement of the former Prime Minister Saad Harírí about the termination or “suspension”, of his political career. At the same time, Saad Hariri called for other members of his family to withdraw from his Future Movement political party and announced that Future Movement will not nominate any candidates for the May 2022 elections. After Hariri’s departure, a kind of vacuum is created on the political scene, and the question is who will take over the role of the main Sunni political party, or who will the Sunni voters lean towards. Hariri’s Future Movement had the support of 75% of Sunnis. The fear is that the Sunni community will become more extreme. Check equzhou to learn more about Lebanon political system.
Parliamentary elections were held in Lebanon in May 2022 (on 5/6 and 8 Lebanese people voted abroad and on 5/15 in Lebanon). Voter turnout was lower (41%) than in the 2018 election (49%). Approximately million eligible voters had the opportunity to choose their preferred representatives from 718 candidates spread over 103 candidate lists in 15 constituencies (an increase from 597 candidates and 77 lists in the 2018 election) Of the 718 candidates, 118 were women (16.4%). Many anti-establishment candidates representing new political groups and movements also ran in this year’s elections. Anti-establishment candidates are expected to win a few seats in these elections, but the balance of power will ultimately remain the same: Hezbollah and its allies will retain a majority in parliament.
Foreign policy of the country
The energy crisis, which peaked in August 2021, brought with it interesting proposals for solutions. Under the auspices of the USA, negotiations were held to ensure the supply of electricity to Lebanon via the Egyptian gas – Jordanian electricity route via Syria to Lebanon. This in itself means finding a way to bypass or exclude this operation from the US sanctions regime against Syria. The opening of these negotiations has encouraged supporters of the Cairo-Jordan axis and pro-Syrian parties in Lebanon, who are campaigning for normalization of relations with Syria. Check recipesinthebox for Lebanon defense and foreign policy.
The formation of the new Lebanese government in September 2021 was a new impulse to activate foreign relations. Prime Minister Mikati has proclaimed from the beginning that he wants to restore and strengthen relations with Arab countries, without exception. At the same time, but with regard to Syria, he mentioned that he would not make an official visit without the consent of the international community. There are pressures to normalize relations with Syria, however, Prime Minister Mikati is cautious and sees Syria as an important partner mainly for economic reasons.
At the beginning of October 2021, the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdollahian visited Lebanon. The message of his visit was that Iran is ready to build 2 power plants in Lebanon – in Beirut and in the south of the country within 18 months, as well as the resumption of direct flights to Beirut.
Instead of strengthening relations with the Arab world, however, another crisis awaited the new government, this time also in foreign-political relations. The last weekend of October saw a dramatic escalation of diplomatic relations between Lebanon and the GCC states. On October 29, 2021, Saudi Arabia announced that it was summoning its ambassador for consultations, and at the same time, the Lebanese ambassador to the KSA was given an ultimatum of 48 hours to leave the country. The KSA has also stopped all imports from Lebanon. Other Gulf states, namely Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE, reacted similarly by withdrawing their ambassadors from Lebanon and expelling Lebanese ambassadors at the same time. The UAE and Bahrain have urged their citizens to leave Lebanon. Subsequently, Yemen also recalled the ambassador from Beirut. This happened after the statements of the Lebanese Minister of Information, George Kordahi, were published. who in an interview expressed support for the Houthi rebels in the war in Yemen. It is clear from the reactions of KSA politicians that the published statements of the LB Minister of Information were only the last straw in the long-term strained relations between the KSA and LB. The Saudi Zaminir described the crisis as much deeper and explained that the KSA’s actions are a response to the long-term strengthening of Hezbollah in Lebanon and its dominant role in the domestic political scene.
KSA and FR, however, like others, the aid offered by the international community is conditional on substantial steps on the Lebanese side – the need to implement structural reforms of the economy or comply with UN resolutions, etc. A positive shift in relations between Lebanon and the Gulf countries occurred after the participation of Prime Minister Mikati at the Forum in Doha in April 2022, after the Lebanese government has pledged to take the necessary measures to prevent activities directed against the Gulf countries. Subsequently, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait agreed to return their ambassadors to Lebanon.
Lebanon is also preparing for the visit of Pope Francis, which was supposed to take place in June 2022 (it was postponed by several weeks due to the Pope’s health problems, the exact date has not yet been confirmed) with the aim of expressing support for Lebanon and confirming the current positive development trends in the region.
Relations with the US
US aid to Lebanon is mainly focused on supporting the Lebanese Army (LAF). US Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland promised during a lightning visit to Lebanon on 14.10. 2021 additional financial assistance to the Lebanese army in the amount of 67 million USD. This brought total US aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces to a total of $187 million in 2021. In addition to this support, Washington has promised Beirut humanitarian aid in the amount of 300 million USD in 2021. On 29.10. 2021 The US publishes a report imposing sanctions on 3 more Lebanese accused of “contributing to the disintegration of the state”. Specifically, the following persons are involved: Member of Parliament Jamil Sayyed (with close contacts to the Syrian regime) and businessmen Jihad el-Arab (linked to Saad Hariri) and Dany Khoury (close to Gebran Bassil). These are the first sanctions imposed during the Biden administration. While persons close to or connected to Hezbollah have always been in Washington’s sights, for the first time a person close to former Sunni Prime Minister Saad Hariri appears on the list.
UN GT Antonio Guterres visited Lebanon in December 2021. He was received by key political leaders and met with prominent religious leaders, representatives of civil society and welcomed a UNIFIL contingent to visit. The main motto of the visit was to express the UN’s solidarity with the Lebanese people in the current crisis situation. Speaking to politicians, the UN GT was unsparing in his criticism of those paralyzing the country and called for overcoming differences of opinion in the name of saving a country on the brink of collapse. The main message of the UN GT was clear – the international community is ready to help Lebanon, but the actions must come from the Lebanese side. The League of Arab States applied for the role of mediator in solving the crisis right from the beginning. The visit of LAS Deputy Secretary General Houssam Zaki to Beirut was perceived in Lebanon as a positive gesture on the part of the Arab countries, but at the same time as a message that the KSA expects Lebanon to take the first step towards a possible future dialogue. However, there was no breakthrough. It only came about after the initiative of President FR Macron, who brought the topic of Lebanon into his negotiations during his trip to KSA on December 4, 2021. Just before Macron’s visit, the Minister of Informatics Kordahi resigned. During Macron’s visit to KSA, a joint telephone conversation between the FR President and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman took place with LB Prime Minister Mikati. FR agreed with KSA to create a joint mechanism for humanitarian aid to Lebanon.
For a long time, there is a lack of official Lebanese statistical data on the number of inhabitants. The World Bank reports a population of million in 2020, which, in addition to approximately 4.85 million Lebanese, includes long-term Palestinian refugees (475,000 according to UNRWA data from 2020), 950,000 Syrian refugees (registered with UNHCR, the Lebanese government states million) and, conversely, does not take into account approx. 170,000 – 500,000 unregistered Palestinian refugees and approx. 18,500 refugees from Ethiopia, Sudan, Iraq, etc. For the same reason, there is no official figure for population density (669.5 inhabitants/km² according to World Bank data from 2018). The coast with the development of individual villages and towns and the Lebanon Mountains in the vicinity of Beirut are mainly populated (88% of the population lives in cities or their surroundings). There is a strong foreign diaspora in the world, probably exceeding 12 million Lebanese (according to some data, up to 15 million people). The average annual increase is 4.2%, the birth rate is (2019, data from the World Bank).
In terms of the current number of residents present in the country (including unregistered refugees from Syria), Lebanese citizens make up about 68% (of which about 10% are Armenians, Kurds and others), Syrians about 24% and Palestinian refugees about 8% of the population (official data varies – according to the 2017 census in the Palestinian camps, there are approximately 177,000 Palestinians in the country, unofficial estimates speak of up to 500,000). Lebanese citizens are 95% of Arab ethnicity, but Christian Lebanese in particular often do not identify as Arab.
There are 18 officially registered religious communities in Lebanon – 12 Christian, 5 Muslim and 1 Jewish. The largest community are Christians (approx. 34%), who are divided into several other groups (Maronites, Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholics; Armenian Christians, etc.). Muslims make up about 61% of the population (30% Shiites, 30% Sunnis and smaller groups of Alawites and Ishmaelites). Politically significant are the Druze, to whom approximately 5% of the population claims to belong. Religious communities are unevenly represented on the territory of Lebanon: Shiites live mainly in the south of the country, in the Bekaa Valley and in the southern suburbs of Beirut, Sunnis live in the vicinity of Tripoli, Saida and Beirut, and the Druze population is significant in the Shuf Mountains. The predominance of the Maronite community is in the Mount Lebanon area and East Beirut. Hundreds of Lebanese claim to be Jewish.