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World > Middle East > Lebanon > Government and Political Conditions (Notes)

Lebanon - Government and Political Conditions (Notes)


GOVERNMENT
Lebanon is a parliamentary democracy in which the people constitutionally have the right to change their government. However, from the mid-1970s until the parliamentary elections in 1992, civil war precluded the effective exercise of political rights. According to the constitution, direct elections must be held for the parliament every 4 years. Parliament, in turn, is tasked to elect a new president every 6 years. A presidential election scheduled for the autumn of 2004 was pre-empted by a parliamentary vote to extend the sitting President's term in office by 3 years. The president and parliament choose the prime minister. Political parties may be formed. However, the political parties that do exist are weak and mostly based on sectarian interests.

Since the emergence of the post-1943 state, national policy has been determined largely by a relatively restricted group of traditional regional and sectarian leaders. The 1943 national pact, an unwritten agreement that established the political foundations of modern Lebanon, allocated political power on an essentially confessional system based on the 1932 census. Until 1990, seats in parliament were divided on a 6-to-5 ratio of Christians to Muslims (with Druze counted as Muslims). With the Ta'if Agreement, the ratio changed to half and half. Positions in the government bureaucracy are allocated on a similar basis. Indeed, gaining political office is virtually impossible without the firm backing of a particular religious or confessional group. The pact also allocated public offices along religious lines, with the top three positions in the ruling 'troika' distributed as follows: The presidency is reserved for a Maronite Christian; The prime minister, a Sunni Muslim, and The speaker of parliament, a Shi'a Muslim.

Efforts to alter or abolish the confessional system of allocating power have been at the center of Lebanese politics for decades. Those religious groups most favored by the 1943 formula sought to preserve it, while those who saw themselves at a disadvantage sought either to revise it after updating key demographic data or to abolish it entirely. Nonetheless, many of the provisions of the national pact were codified in the 1989 Ta'if Agreement, perpetuating sectarianism as a key element of Lebanese political life.

Although moderated somewhat under Ta'if, constitutionally, the president has a strong and influential position. The president has the authority to promulgate laws passed by the Chamber of Deputies, to issue supplementary regulations to ensure the execution of laws, and to negotiate and ratify treaties.

The Chamber of Deputies is elected by adult suffrage (majority age is 21) based on a system of proportional representation for the various confessional groups. Political blocs are usually based on confessional and local interests or on personal/family allegiance rather than on left/right policy orientations.

The parliament traditionally has played a significant role in financial affairs, since it has the responsibility for levying taxes and passing the budget. It also exercises political control over the cabinet through formal questioning of ministers on policy issues and by requesting a confidence debate.

Lebanon's judicial system is based on the Napoleonic Code. Juries are not used in trials. The Lebanese court system has three levels--courts of first instance, courts of appeal, and the court of cassation. There also is a system of religious courts having jurisdiction over personal status matters within particular religious communities, e.g., rules on such matters as marriage, divorce, and inheritance.

Principal Government Officials
President--Emile Lahoud
Prime Minister--Fouad Siniora
Speaker of Parliament--Nabih Berri
Minister of Foreign Affairs--Fawzi Salloukh (resigned--resignation not accepted)
Finance Minister--Jihad Azour
Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister--Elias Murr
Ambassador-designate to the U.S.--Antoine Chedid (appointed, but not yet approved)
Ambassador-designate to the UN--Nawaf Salam (appointed, but not yet approved)

Lebanon maintains an embassy in the United States at 2560 28th Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008, tel. (202) 939-6300. There also are three consulates general in the United States: 1959 East Jefferson, Suite 4A, Detroit, MI 48207, tel. (313) 567-0233/0234; 7060 Hollywood Blvd., Suite 510, Los Angeles, CA 90028, tel. (213) 467-1253/1254; and 9 East 76th Street, New York, N.Y. l0021, tel. (212) 744-7905/7906 and 744-7985.


Facts at a Glance: Geography - People - Government - Economy - Communications - Transportation - Military - Climate - Current Time - Ranking Positions
Notes and Commentary: People - Economy - Government and Political Conditions - Historical Highlights - Foreign Relations - Relations with U.S.



Facts at a Glance
Geography
People
Government
Economy
Communications
Transportation
Military
Climate
Current Time
Ranking Positions


Notes and Commentary
People
Economy
Government and Political Conditions
Historical Highlights
Foreign Relations
Relations with U.S.





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