The Lebanese Republic is a country of contrasts, it connects the Orient and the Occident and has been a scene of wars and political instabilities for years. The situation in the country is worsening due to the war in Syria and the resulting interdenominational conflicts in the entire Middle East. But Lebanon is always reinventing itself.
Independence Day: November 22, 1943
Head of state: Michel Aoun
Head of government: Hassan Diab
Political system: parliamentary democracy with a proportional system
Democracy Status Index (BTI): 75 of 137 (2020)
Corruption Index (CPI): 137 of 180 (2019)
According to programingplease, Lebanon has been independent since 1943. Its political system is formally based on a republican constitution based on the French model. Until the outbreak of the civil war in 1975, the country developed into a functioning concordance democracy, in which the division of political offices was confessional. This guaranteed the participation of the various religious groups in the country. Due to higher birth rates, strong Christian migration of Lebanese Christians and the immigration of Muslim refugees, the proportion of the population of Muslims has increased, so that the denominational balance is increasingly shaky. By adhering to the systematic division of the parliamentary seats half to Christians and half to Muslims, the vote of a Christian Lebanese in the parliamentary elections gains more weight than that of a Muslim. This sets at first sight democratic shortcoming. However, in Lebanon there is a free press, a functioning parliament, a strong civil society and a largely functioning judiciary. Important elements of a democracy. However, the denominational fragmentation of the country causes an external dependency on the respective protective powers of the denominational groups. This reduces the sovereignty of the state. The state has hardly any monopoly on the use of force. Although Lebanon, as the “Switzerland of the Orient”, for a long time gave the appearance of a stable republic through the proportional system regulated in the National Pact, the immobile denominational system, which cannot integrate the new forces released by social change, implied the danger of disintegration, because that Land was not the product of a “nation building” process. This results in the weak differentiation of Lebanese society, which is built on the basis of communities whose members are more loyal to their own group than to the community. In other words:The political confessionalism of Lebanon forces its citizens to organize themselves religiously and gives the religious communities such power that the individual citizen has to be more loyal to his religious group than to the state. Belonging to a denomination not only paves the way to the country’s resources, it also establishes the existence of the individual. Religious affiliation regulates everyday life and determines civil law legislation. Moreover, there are political parties – the country’s exclusive representation of the respective denominations, that are led by large families and clientele, and recognized as a religious community. This constellation has had a devastating effect because it prevented the democratization process and the associated installation of civil conflict resolution mechanisms.
The factual disempowerment of the Lebanese state did not just begin with the outbreak of civil war in 1975. As early as 1958, President Chéhab had to face a left-wing coup by Lebanese officers and react with the implementation of a compensation policy in which he has issued a strict parity principle, according to which there should be a Muslim official for every Christian official. Furthermore, an education offensive should be initiated with the expansion of the infrastructure and in particular through the construction of schools in remote areas and through the modernization of the Lebanese university. As a result, 64% more graduates graduated from university in 1974 – a new educational elite that could hardly be absorbed by the parity system, especially since the average growth rate of GDP fell from 10.5% in the 1960’s to zero growth in 1974. This conflict situation is a social imbalance that should not in itself cause the state to collapse. However, in denominational Lebanon it marks.
Natural gas and oil – the way out of this misery?
Explorations have shown that at least 707 billion cubic meters of natural gas are stored off the southwest coast of Lebanon near the sea borders with Cyprus and Israel. In addition, there are said to be further natural gas and oil deposits off the Lebanese coast and on the mainland. So far it has not been possible for the Lebanese government to create the legal and structural framework so that funding can begin. At this point there seems to be the first conflicts with Israel, as the course of the sea borders is controversial. It concerns oil and natural gas deposits in the Levantine Basin. Lebanon and Israel each claim an area of 860 square kilometers on the border in the Mediterranean.
Given that the recent discoveries of oil and gas deposits are very large deposits in the Mediterranean Sea between Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Israel, Syria and Lebanon, and that there are several open conflicts in the region, it can be assumed that it is to a conflict escalation will come. Already today there are signs of massive border conflicts, the accesses to the deposits are being claimed by warring parties. In the medium term, the Lebanese state will compete with Israel on the energy market. Thereby the respective explosive determinations of the sea borders become further increase the already strong conflict potential between Israel and Lebanon. The conflict escalated when Lebanon awarded test drilling licenses for two out of ten blocks to French Total, Italian Eni and Russian Novatek in December. One of them, Block 9, extends into the disputed area.
In March 2020, Lebanese President Michel Aoun will celebrate the commissioning of the first drill ship off the Lebanese coast. Oil and gas should help Lebanon out of the worst economic crisis.