Political Support in Postwar Labanon as a Function of Social, Political and Economic Performance

By Haddad, Simon | The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies, Winter 2000 | Go to article overview

Political Support in Postwar Labanon as a Function of Social, Political and Economic Performance


Haddad, Simon, The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies


This paper measures political legitimacy in postwar Lebanon. In connection with this several aspects such as political efficacy, government responsiveness and satisfaction with public policy have been tested. The data were collected between March and April 1998 and come from a nationwide survey of 774 Lebanese. The findings disclose a Lebanese lack of politically efficacious feelings and indicate, also, the weakness of government responsiveness. Judgments about government performance differ about the policy area: discontent with economic, welfare and social policies contrasts with more a positive evaluation of public order and foreign policy. Finally, respondents exhibit little support for the existing government and would prefer to have its current form changed. The study derives its importance from the fact that billionaire Rafik Hariri, a threetime former premier, was again designated prime minister on the 22nd of October. 2000. two years after being ousted from power and blamed for the acute economic crisis. Hariri, who was denounced for his ambitious program of political reforms and economic policy during his first period in office between 1992 and 1998, is expected to reverse the country's economic decline under the outgoing government. While there are strong indicators that I Hariri will continue his previous policy, the survey findings indicate the shortcomings that should be remedied if the new government desires to overcome the country's current political, economic and social problems.

Key Worth: Lebanon, political legitimacy, Rafik Hariri, survey of Lebanese political attitudes, Lebanese political problems, Taif Accord's aftermath.

1. Lebanon's Postwar Politics

With the conclusion of the Taif Agreement in 1989, Lebanon succeeded in overcoming 17 years of civil war. In fact, Lebanese parliamentary deputies met in Saudi Arabia under Arab sponsorship and signed the "Document of National Understanding" or what is commonly known as the Taif Accord. Based on the National Pact of 1943, this agreement altered the Lebanese constitution, introducing a new formula for the political distribution of offices. Interconfessional communal living, democracy and a liberal economic system were the basic principles provided to the state. In addition to the introduction of internal reforms, the new constitution planned to extend Lebanese sovereignty over all its territory, ridding Lebanon of Israeli occupation and working out a formula for future relations between Lebanon and Syria.1

The implementation of the Taif Agreement effectively ended sectarian violence in the country. Peace was restored, but the accord failed to ensure Lebanon's independence and disrupted the internal political balance between various communities. One of the key aspects of the agreement is the decline of the Maronite presidential power. Instead, the council of ministers, headed by a Sunni, was made the strongest institution at the expense of the head of state. In the parliament, the 6:5 ratio in favor of the Christians was changed to parity between the two communities.2

In addition to internal reforms, a major aspect of the agreement was that it acknowledged Syria's special relations with I-cb,anon. In fact, Syria became the main power-broker in post-war Lebanon. After 1990, Syria directly intervened in presidential and parliamentary elections, in the alteration of governments, in appointing ministers and in Lebanon's foreign policy. Parliamentary elections filed tile task of political normalization and prepared very badly for the envisaged national reconciliation and integration. Election laws were tailored to fit specific political purposes for the benefit of those who approved of full cooperation with the ruling class and to the disadvantage of those who might be expected to resist. Designed to consolidate Syria's hold over the legislature, elections deprived important segments from genuine representation, marginalized all opposition and prepared the ground for pro-Syrian governments in the post-war period. …

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