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Lebanon's divisive democracy: the parliamentary elections of 1992.


RECENT ELECTIONS IN SEVERAL ARAB COUNTRIES have stirred debate over the meaning of Arab democracy and the possibilities of its taking root in Arab societies where liberal traditions previously had been lacking.(1) It is more than a little ironic, and perhaps prophetic, that the Arab state which was considered most democratic and which had an established electoral system--Lebanon--should be the one to suffer from a heated debate over the feasibility of holding elections at this time. The Ta'if agreement of 1989, which theoretically ended the Lebanese civil war, called, among other things, for electing a new parliament. The previous parliamentary elections were held in 1972, three years before the eruption of the civil war which made it impossible for the normal political process to continue. Until recently, nearly all Lebanese factions agreed on the need to elect a new representative parliament to replace the 20-year old one which was no longer viewed as legitimate. But when the current government's efforts to arrange for elections appeared serious, considerable opposition was voiced against them mainly by the Lebanese Maronite community, which feared that a new parliament would enact laws to end its privileged position in Lebanese society and politics. New regional political trends as well as the ongoing peace talks, with the possibility of the conclusion of a peace treaty with Israel, have focused international attention on the debate over the electoral process which took place during the summer of 1992.

Was it the form or the predicted results of the electoral process that again emphasized the differences between the Lebanese communities? And how would the elections affect the health of Lebanese democracy, its future stability and regional pacification? This study is important because it attempts to understand the opinions of Lebanon's war generation on several contentious issues involving the parliamentary elections. These young people were raised in fear of bombardment, and in sectarian isolation.(2) Some carried guns and will do so again if the situation demands it. They also constitute Lebanon's hope for eventual national reconciliation and productive social and political change. The attitudes of the younger generation are thus an important indication of the direction in which the country is moving politically. Therefore, this study will investigate the following relevant topics: 1) their awareness of the democratic process in the Lebanese context; 2) respondents' views as to whether the elections should be held on schedule; 3) their expectations on whether elections can be held under democratic conditions; 4) their views on the candidates they prefer to represent them in parliament, and 5) the actual expectations of respondents concerning the results of the elections. The data came from a national survey the daily al-Safir conducted during the summer of 1992. The sample consists of 1,436 respondents between 19 and 39 years of age. All regions in Lebanon were included in the sample in proportion to the size of the population. Two-thirds of the respondents were Muslim and one-third Christian, and one-third of the sample were women. Non-reliable responses were deleted from the analysis of the findings.


Local observers and scholars have repeatedly decried the impotence and subservience of Lebanon's legislative body to the executive branch.(3) In fact its major function has been as a means through which members peddled influence at the state level by supplying local constituencies with the services they exchanged for allegiance. Thus, as in many other developing countries, patronclient relationships played a key role in influencing the public-oriented policies of the legislature. Parliamentary activity was usually marred by deep-seated acrimony that manifested itself in heated and, often, inconclusive debates. As the Lebanese civil war went on unchecked, the arbitrational role of the parliament in national politics was virtually neutralized. The conclusion of the Ta'if agreement, however, required the reactivization of parliament's role since implementation of Ta'if hinged on passing new legislation that included, among other things, amending the constitution. Therefore, the government's intention to go ahead with parliamentary elections in the summer of 1992 created a major outcry by the forces that were reluctant to proceed with the implementation of the Ta'if agreement, particularly the Maronites.

The general thrust of the agreement aimed at the redistribution of Lebanon's political and economic resources in a fashion that recognized demographic shifts that favored the Muslims (especially the Shiites) at the expense of the Christians (especially the Maronites). Parliamentary elections would constitute and legitimize a new body politic to be followed by the withdrawal of the Syrian forces, that had been installed in the country since 1976, to eastern Lebanon. Hopefully, the Israelis would then reciprocate by pulling out from their area of control in southern Lebanon.

The Maronites wanted the Syrians out of Lebanon, and believed that elections held before they left might be unduly influenced by Syria at their expense. The Ta'if Accord was immediately opposed by a faction of the Maronite community headed by General Michel A'un who was appointed prime minister by President Amin al-Jumayyil, without parliamentary approval. Most Muslim leaders viewed the appointment of A'un as unconstitutional. Thus, for the first time in Lebanon's modern history, the country had two functioning governments, one in East Beirut, the other in its western half. It is noteworthy that A'un was extremely popular with Lebanese respondents of all sects who saw his stance as anti-Syrian more than pro-Maronite and viewed him as a national leader bent on reconstructing Lebanon along modern lines instead. The A'un current remained vigorous in its opposition to the Ta'if Accord although A'un himself went into exile in France after his military defeat by combined national and Syrian forces in 1991.

Since the last parliamentary election was held in 1972, vacancies due to death or other circumstances were not filled until appointments were made in 1991.(5) This process was bitterly criticized by the Maronite community as a sham engineered by Syria to load the parliament with its supporters. From their perspective, this did not bode well for their chances in forthcoming elections. Thus a collection of Maronite and other Christian groups, coordinated by the Maronite Patriarch and representing tendencies in their communities, joined together to oppose the elections.

Fearing loss of identity and domination by the growing Muslim population,(6) and as the largest single sect at the time of Lebanon's independence in 1943, the Maronite Christians demanded and received political hegemony in the State according to an informal national pact worked out between the various communities.(7) Nevertheless, the foundations of the precarious republic that ensued were repeatedly challenged by the growing Muslim communities and others who claimed political and social justice.(8) The fears of the Maronite community were thus not allayed and to a certain extent they adopted a siege mentality, which, combined with the rise of militant Palestinian groups on Lebanese soil in the 1960s and 1970s, led to the explosion in 1975. Basically, they felt that as a result of the Ta'if Accord the new parliament would most likely not be under the control of the traditional leadership which in the past had supported Maronite goals and hegemony. Further, it might proceed to amend the constitution allowing for closer political ties to Syria, or in the extreme case, even political and economic union. Since the Maronites had always vigorously pursued and sought to protect Lebanon's special identity so as to assure protection of their perceived cultural distinction from other Arab groups, especially Muslims, such an occurrence was considered nothing short of communal suicide.(9) The scope of the proposed structural and legal changes, especially the drive to end political confessionalism, alarmed many Maronites. The specter of electing a pro-Syrian parliament, before the re-deployment of Syrian troops outside Beirut and Mount Lebanon, haunted a broad sector of the Maronite community, and mobilized them against holding elections. They hoped elections would be postponed long enough for conditions on the ground to change, allowing a better deal for them and their allies; or not holding them at all and postponing the issue until 1996, hoping for a change in the political mosaic of the Middle East after the mechanics of the peace process had taken their course.

On the other side, the government and most groups involved in the civil war on the side of the opposition national forces, were convinced that there was a new mood in the country that would allow them to gain control of the legislative branch; as to a large extent they had done with the executive with Syrian help.

The battle lines over the venue of elections were as sharply drawn and remained as consistent as they had during the war years. The basic political issue, nonetheless, was masked in a debate over the likelihood of a fair and democratic outcome. To what extent was the schism and its facade reflected in the attitudes of the respondents? The issue of elections was measured by three indicators: whether or not elections should be held before the end of summer 1992, the ability of the government to hold elections on specified dates, and the democratic nature of the intended electoral process. The results show that only 57% of the respondents supported holding the elections before the end of summer (Table 1). The basic reasons which those who did not agree put forth included the belief that security conditions were not favorable due to possible foreign [Syrian] intervention, the absence of electoral guarantees, fear of cheating, internal instability and no faith in politicians (Table 2). It is obvious that the reasons for opposing the elections, although very important, are rooted in the Lebanese system and in Lebanese behavior. For example, foreign intervention, fear of cheating and mistrust of politicians are facts of life with which the Lebanese have lived for years. Thus these reasons do not justify a political crisis of the magnitude Lebanon faces today. There is no doubt, therefore, that there are unexpressed reasons for refusing elections. In this they may have been exhibiting behavior called batiniyya (dissimulation), wherein individuals adopt a position, due to powerlessness or otherwise, despite their realization of its falsity or even immorality, in the hope that some day when conditions change, they may be able to forego it.(10)

Table 1 Opinions as to Whether Elections Should be Held in Summer 1992
 N = 1435
Elections should be held 57
Elections should not be held 43
Total 100

Table 2 Reasons for Refusing Elections in Summer 1992
 N = 572
Reasons %
Lack of security 38
Fear of foreign intervention 21
Lack of guarantee of free expression 13
Fear of cheating 3
Likelihood of instability 8
Mistrust of politicians 17
Total 100

The undisclosed problem at the basis of the electoral argument shows that many Lebanese do not dare to call things by their real names, thus precluding any constructive attempts at dialogue which could unearth the root of the Lebanese predicament. It is a formula for continued division. From the answers given, it seems that Christian respondents, especially Catholics and Maronites, are more sensitive to what the elections might hold than their Muslim counterparts. Therefore, they were more likely to oppose holding the elections as scheduled by the government, as their responses in Table 3 reveal. But the position of Christians concerning holding the elections is not identical. A question which sought to measure the opinions of those residing in districts with Christian majorities revealed clear differences in their answers which varied from one district to another. For instance, while respondents from Kisrwan in the province of Mount Lebanon comprised the group most opposed to the elections (74%), the respondents from the northern district of Zgharta are the most enthusiastic (86%) along with the Biqa' Valley town of Zahlah (63%). The most logical explanation of this lack of community solidarity, lies in the manner in which political loyalties are formed in Lebanon. They are based on regional attachments to traditional or sub-traditional leaderships,(11) and for the most part, are not ideologically based. Those who supported the elections adhered to local leaders, such as the Franjiyya family or lived in the hometown of Ilyas al-Hirawi (Zahlah). Maronite supporters of the elections tended to report coming from Lebanon's outlying areas where their sect is thinly distributed. In these areas, over the years, the Maronites managed to develop conciliatory views toward other religious groups, including Muslims. Kisrwan, on the other hand, is the heartland of Maronite resistance and the guardian of their sense of distinctiveness.

Table 3 Opinions on Holding Elections During the Summer by Sect
Sect N % Agree % Disagree Total %
Sunni 403 68 32 100
Shiite 342 69 31 100
Druze 225 66 34 100
Maronites 287 26 74 100
Orthodox 97 52 48 100
Other Christians 33 58 42 100

The current regional pattern of leadership in Lebanon is conducive to interreligious conflict as well as intra-group divisions. Elite-inspired disagreements on fundamental issues is endemic and contributes to the wide discrepancy in the respondents' views regarding holding the elections. It should be noted that when the government decided to hold special by-elections in Kisrwan (the only district where elections were actually postponed because of the withdrawal of candidates), many Maronite political aspirants took part in them. It was noteworthy that the voter turnout in the Kisrwan by-elections was not below the national average. In view of the above, it is evident that Lebanese political elites can have a tremendous negative impact on their sectarian constituencies.

Two-thirds of the respondents though that the government could hold the election on its specified dates but this belief was less among Christians, especially Maronites and Catholics. More than likely, they believed that by rejecting the elections they could attract sufficient attention to their cause from France and the Vatican--their traditional backers--and from the United States so that pressure might be brought on the Hirawi Government to cancel them. Doubt about governmental ability to stage the process might also stem from the belief that many Christians hold; i.e., that the Ta'if Republic is less Christian than it should be, implying that it is also less effective than it should be.


In those less-developed states whose political systems are patterned on western liberal ideologies and political structures, political elites and masses have not captured the rational and social background of western democratic practice. These norms spread in the West before states were transformed from narrow political systems to those of broad popular base. In non-western regions, a civic culture on which political process could be firmly anchored was not first developed. This is the case in Lebanon where a number of factors tend to create disillusionment, cynicism and reduce interest in elections. Contrary to all principles of democracy, members of Lebanon's traditional families moved into the key positions of the new state in 1943 and they, or close relatives or colleagues, remained firmly entrenched in the executive and legislative branches of government until recently.(12) Furthermore, although parliamentary elections had not taken place during the civil war period, presidential elections were continuous and highly contentious, especially those held in 1976 and 1982. The unprecedented cancellation of the presidential elections in 1988 was based on the following reasoning: If the elections could not be made to lead to expected results then they would not be acceptable. Thus, due to the political climate, they could not be allowed. It would be more beneficial to delay them. This attitude was again reflected by the opponents of the elections in 1992, and had nothing to do with democracy or the fair play of electoral process.

Given exposure to such experiences, what kind of electoral culture could have developed among respondents, given the examples set for them by their families and leaders? First, and considering the general debate about electoral guarantees, possible cheating and the free expression of public opinion as shown in Table 2, how much do respondents actually know about various aspects of democratic practice within Lebanon? More than three-fourths of the respondents from all sects revealed that they did not know the conditions under which parliamentary elections would be held. While it might have been expected that the Maronites would know more about the electoral conditions that their leaders had been so vociferously complaining about, in fact, the results showed that they were the least knowledgeable. Another question sought to probe respondents' knowledge about the conditions of candidacy. Responses revealed that 77% of those surveyed had no idea, and again, Christians exhibited somewhat less understanding than Muslims. Only a few respondents knew how the voting process would occur. For example, one question sought respondents' knowledge about one of the most important guarantees of electoral fairness, the electoral chamber, and what persons had the right to be there at voting time. Eighty-four per cent of the respondents had no idea. Moreover, 89% had no knowledge of how votes would be counted and only 1% of the few who knew something about the process of actually registering a vote, knew more than one of its three parts. The differences between the sects were nil and did not imply a different behavioral pattern. On the other hand, a significant proportion of respondents (more than 42%), knew the number of parliamentary members as decided by the Ta'if Accord, and more than half know the details of the sect distribution which would prevail in the new parliament and the term of office of elected members as decided by the Accord.

It is quite clear from these responses that knowledge of sectarian details exceeds knowledge of democratic practice, implying a predisposition to legalstructural aspects more than to behavioral aspects. However, it must be acknowledged that not too much can be expected from those who have never had the opportunity to work the system. Furthermore, knowing the form is not a guarantee of democratic behavior. However, it could certainly lessen the chaotic nature of elections in Lebanon.

Given this vacuum in electoral information, opinions on whether it would be possible for elections to be held under democratic circumstances assume importance as indicators of the respondents' views regarding the real meaning of the elections. Thus, without knowing the details of democratic process, more than two-thirds of the respondents nevertheless believed it impossible to hold them under democratic conditions (Table 4). As expected, Christian respondents, especially Maronites, were more strongly convinced of this fact than others (Table 5). Nevertheless, more than half of the respondents still felt that the elections should be held, and it is possible that attitudes concerning these issues reflected narrow partisan objectives rather than civic values. In fact, desired or feared election outcomes have inhibited any possibility of meaningful democratic principles taking root among the war generation. A recent statistical study showed that democratic orientation is weak among Maronite college students.(13) However, from the above findings it appears that this characteristic is shared by more than one group in Lebanon.

Table 4 Expectations of Holding Elections Under Democratic Conditions
 N = 1427
Response %
Possible 39
Impossible 61
Total 100

Table 5 Expectations of Democratic Conditions of Elections by Sect
Sect N. Democratic Non-democratic Total
Sunni 104 40 60 100
Shiite 338 45 55 100
Druze 225 46 54 100
Maronite 285 26 74 100
Orthodox 97 31 69 100
Other Christians 32 37 63 100


The political attitudes of Lebanese respondents today will have a great deal to do with Lebanon's stability and direction in years to come. Are there any bases of agreement between the respondents concerning who should represent them in governing Lebanon which might lend hope for the healing of the fractured society?

Moving from general to more specific topics, a series of questions were first posed concerning the appeal of three stock-type political figures presently on the Lebanese stage; traditional, militia and resistance leaders in southern Lebanon. It is generally believed that the civil war heavily eroded the power of the traditional elites, some of whom came to power during the Ottoman period, but to date no effort has been made to test this impression empirically.

On the same score, and also untested, it was believed that militia leaders had in several instances, replaced them. As military defenders of their communities, young and energetic leaders quickly rose to power during the war years taking over decision making and in some cases establishing virtually autonomous territories which they ruled with an iron fist.(14) The younger generation formed the basis of their political action. Many joined militias for purposes of social and economic advancement at a time when employment was difficult to find. On the other hand, these militias often fought each other in heavily populated urban areas thereby adding to the exhaustion of their constituents. Furthermore, they were often coercive and arbitrary in their treatment of the communities they controlled and in time their allure wore thin. In some ways, the parliamentary elections which began to be discussed at the beginning of the summer of 1992, took the nature of a popular referendum to determine the legitimacy of Lebanon's oldest and newest political bosses.

What was the verdict of the younger generation on militiamen and traditional lords and to what category of leadership, if any, were they attached? When respondents were asked whether they would prefer traditional or militia leaders as their representatives, more than two-thirds of the respondents rejected both (Table 6). Dislike of these leaders was widespread among respondents of all sects although this was less marked in the case of Druze and Shiite respondents. The Druze leadership wears many hats. Chieftain Walid Junblat's family has been the dominant power in the Lebanese Druze community for centuries. His Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) espouses both Lebanese nationalism and pan-Arabism, and fields a militia, (al-Jaysh al-Sha'bi, The Popular Army). In all their responses, the Druze showed a stronger sect solidarity than any of the other groups.(15) On the other hand, the replies of Shiites showed clear dislike of traditional leaders, yet endorsed militia leaders to a greater extent than did their colleagues from other sects. This may be because political mobilization among the Shiites is recent compared to other Lebanese sects and within the cadre of pure Shiite movements and parties there are only two choices--Amal and Hizballah, which each fielded large militias.(16)

Table 6 Preference between Militia or Traditional Leader Candidates
 N = 1,414
Preference %
Militia leader 19
Traditional leader 13
Neither 68
Total 100

The National Resistance is a loose coalition of Hizballah and to a lesser extent the Amal movement with some leftist groups. It has been preoccupied, almost continuously over the last few years, with the Israelis and their surrogates in the southern district, the mainly Maronite South Lebanese Army.(17) In contrast to their general disillusionment with militiamen and traditional leaders, two-thirds of the respondents agreed that representatives of the National Resistance should enter parliament (Table 7). Since the national struggle may be perceived by many as an Islamic struggle, respondents seem to be affirming that Islamists such as Hizballah deserve parliamentary representation. In fact, Table 8 shows that Muslims tend more to choose representatives of the National Resistance than Christians. It is interesting to note, however, that the Druze endorse these candidates more than the Shiites who are directly involved in the southern struggle. This can be explained by two facts. The Druze openly and heartily embrace pan-Arab ideals, having contributed important leaders to the movement which began in Syria during the first part of the 20th century.(18) The small, heterodox sect may also have desired to be a part of a broad movement in which they could merge with the Arab mainstream.

Table 7 Willingness to Elect National Resistance Candidate
 N = 1427
Response %
Would elect 62
Would not elect 38
Total 100

Table 8 Willingness to Elect National Resistance Candidate by Sect
Sect N. % Agree % Disagree Total %
Sunni 400 67 33 100
Shiite 339 75 25 100
Druze 225 79 21 100
Maronite 285 35 65 100
Orthodox 97 57 43 100
Catholic 43 42 58 100
Other Christians 32 50 50 100

As far as the Shiites are concerned, Amal and Hizabllah have been seriously divided over the advisability of pursuing a policy of open warfare toward Israel which draws heavy reprisals on the Shiite heartland. Some Shitte respondents therefore resent the activities of the National Resistance and also find Hizballah's strict Islamic ideology objectionable.

As expected, Maronite and Catholic support for these representatives is least warm, because they fear Muslim encroachment and support the southern Maronite community which opposes the National Resistance. Given this, the extent of support they gave to the National Resistance candidates is surprising unless other factors are considered. The Maronite respondents may have wished to register their support for any resistance to foreign forces on Lebanese soil, and also may have turned against their erstwhile ally, Israel, for abandoning the Maronite community. In a reversal of their suusal policy, the Maronites can now be expected to oppose a peace treaty with Israel, since it is sure to demand Lebanon's absorption of the 1948 Palestinian refugees, two-thirds of whom are Muslims.

The election results indicated that the protracted civil war has decimated the ranks of Lebanon's traditional leaders and introduced new ones instead. Despite the respondents' resentment over electing militia leaders to the parliament, the latter won decisively in every voting district. This suggests that most of the support for militia leaders comes from those in older age brackets, or it may simply indicate a gap between perceptions and actual voting behavior. The election results have shown that most traditional leaders lost their seats to militia leaders and militia sympathizers. Thus the shift in parliamentary representation essentially involved replacing one self-serving group of leaders--as many Lebanese would lament--by another. Probing to further define the political choices of the war generation, additional questions were addressed to respondents concerning the background of the candidate they would like to represent them. Table 9, which lists respondents' combined first and second choices, shows differences that are linked with sect affiliation. The Druze are the most enthusiastic over partisan candidates due to the singular place in Druze life of the PSP(19) while Maronite respondents are least attracted by party candidates.


Two experiences in the last ten years have left Maronite respondents in a quandary today: the tragic death of their young and energetic leader, Bashir al-Jumayyil in 1982, and General Michel A'un's abandonment in 1991 of his declared goal to liberate Lebanon from Syrian occupation. Both were highly charismatic, idealistic Maronite leaders with an appealing sense of mission for Lebanon. In addition, the realization that years of struggle and sacrifice brought nothing to their community except hardship, emigration and continuous defeats on the military and political fronts, apparently have taken a toll on the partisan attachments of the sect's respondents.

Shiite and Sunni respondents are not enthusiastic about candidates who are partisan or secular figures. This may reveal disillusionment with the secular pan-Arab movement and the parties it spawned in the 1960s and 1970s. Furthermore, parties that attracted Sunni membership during the civil war have faded.(20) The Shiite party Amal, whose orientation theoretically at least is secular, and, as revealed in Table 10 is favored by Shiite respondents, may after all be felt to be their only alternative. More Sunni and Shiite respondents chose religious figures than any of the other sects but not overwhelmingly so. These results reveal the fluid nature of political attachments in the Sunni and Shiite communities and also the insignificance of their traditional leaders.(21) For that matter, traditional leaders score low in the choices of respondents of all sects, which is consistent with the results reported in Table 6. Of interest is the fact that the Maronites show more tendency than other groups to endorse traditional figures, who, after their recent experiences, may not seem so bad after all and who are in the forefront of the election boycott. Orthodox respondents, as might be expected, chose party and secular figures since the Syrian National Social Party (SNSP), founded on secular lines by Antun Saadah, an Orthodox Christian, attracts a heavily Orthodox membership base.


An interesting trend appears in the importance all sects give to the choice of candidates having economic backgrounds, despite the fact that few, other than millionaire businessman Rafiq al-Hariri whose sister was a candidate, and former prime minister Salim al-Hoss, a Ph.D. in finance, would have a chance against the entrenched politicians of the day. Al-Hoss and al-Hariri both are considered as technocrats more than political bosses of the old guard, and as such appear less tainted than other figures on the electoral scene. The former is reputed to be a man of honesty and integrity; the latter for his wide-scale philanthropic activities, especially in the field of promoting college education among the needy. These responses also may reflect concern over Lebanon's serious economic predicament as much as anything else. Table 10 reveals respondents' sect affiliation and their combined first and second choices of the parties whose candidates they would prefer to represent them in parliament. Druze choices of the PSP and then the SNSP which contains a considerable number of Druze members;(22) and Christian, especially Maronite, endorsement of the Lebanese Forces, failing any other viable group now, are highly predictable. Of greater interest, however, is the level of disinterest shown by Christian respondents toward the most solidly institutionalized and traditional of the Christian parties; the Kata'ib, founded in 1936 by Shaykh Pierre al-Jumayyil.(23) The Kata'ib leadership sat on the fence up to the last minute on the question of whether or not to participate in the elections. Their failure to take a strong position on the issue immediately was apparently considered a sign of weakness, or perhaps even a sell-out, in comparison with the rigid positions adopted by the Lebanese Forces and the A'un faction.

While Schiff estimated that the Shiite parties probably attracted a similar number of adherents in 1983,(24) yet these findings show that Amal has the clear edge over the Party of God. Nevertheless there is a marked reluctance of Hizballah adherents to openly expose themselves as party members, and as such the number of supporters may actually be higher than that which is indicated. The impression that the civil war has pushed the Shiites toward confessionally-based parties, and away from the leftist organizations of their original attachment, seems to have a factual basis. In this respect, the Lebanese Communist Party's relatively high score was due to its popularity as a second choice among many respondents. Furthermore, regional trends toward growth in Islamic movements seem to be present in Lebanon according to Sunni and Shiite responses.

It must be acknowledged, however, that the percentages shown are taken from only 713 responses which indicates that more than half of the respondents of the survey either did not wish to reveal their party affiliation or were simply not interested in the candidates of Lebanon's political parties. In either case, their abstention reveals a great deal about the effects of Labanon's present political environment.


Expectations concerning the results of the electoral process reveal an interesting uniformity consistent with Lebanon's postwar political realities. For example, respondents felt that in general the appointed deputies of 1991 would probably regain their parliamentary seats (Table 11) while those who had been elected in 1972 were not perceived to have as good a chance to win (Table 12). These responses seem to reflect the belief that the Syrian brokerage of appointed candidates in 1991, and their continued interest in the elections would play a role in the return of those politicians to office.

Table 11 Expectations regarding Appointed Deputies Being Returned to

 N = 1414
Expectations %
High 38
Moderate 38
Low 24
Total 100

Table 12 Expectations regarding Deputies Elected in 1972 Winning in

Elections of 1992
 N = 1413
Expectations %
High 11
Moderate 43
Low 46
Total 100

Table 13 indicates that three-fourths of the respondents believed that change would occur in the new parliament. This supports the tendency to downgrade the importance of traditional candidates and to take into consideration the new parties and regional leaderships. These result in some cases from external political attachments and in others from personal resources or influence which allowed them to redirect state services to their sectarian counterparts.(25)

Table 13 Anticipated Changes in the New Parliament
 N = 1413
Changes %
Fundamental 24
Moderate 54
Minimal 22
Total 100

The actual election results have indeed shown significant changes in the composition of the new parliament. To begin with, the broad Maronite boycott resulted in the exclusion of numerous Maronite traditional leaders. The change in the profile of parliamentary deputies was most conspicuous among Sunnis and Shiites. Part of the change involved the admission into the parliament, and for the first time since the creation of independent Lebanon, of Muslim fundamentalist deputies. In total, the new parliament included eight Shiite deputies from Hizballah, and four others representing two Sunni fundamentalist movements. In Beirut, the ticket of Salim al-Hoss advocating "salvation and change" won big, and so did the entire ticket of the Amal Movement of Nabih Birri in southern Lebanon. The actual change in the composition of parliament exceeded the expectations of the respondents.


The responses of Lebanon's war generation clearly indicated that they felt that democratic principles and processes were incidental to an electoral program the government had conceived in advance and would be likely to promote in the electoral process. As such, it is likely that the elections were perceived, although this was not articulated by respondents, as an arm of governmental strategy brokered by Syria, which would tie up the loose ends and set a seal to the end of the civil war.

The crisis engendered by the Maronite boycott of the elections, the generally light voter turnout and the numerous hitches and scandals involved in the process which nevertheless had no impact on the staggered elections, highlights the magnitude of Lebanon's confessional predicament. The desire for expeditious implementation of the Ta'if Agreement spurred the Syrian-backed Lebanese government to proceed with the electoral process, no matter what its divisive implications were.

These concerns were made obvious by the responses of Maronite and to a lesser degree by other Christian respondents. In the days leading up to the elections, at the time of this survey, Christians reflected the adversarial and rejectionist stance of their community leaders on all aspects of the electoral issue, while Muslim respondents generally endorsed them. These results clearly show that the Maronites have moved from the center of politics to the periphery. With their war machine entirely dismantled and the various Christian leaderships at odds, the Maronite's nightmare scenario has become reality. Isolated, but now from a position of weakness rather than strength, they have become overnight the Lebanese opposition. The election issue more than reinforced the already existing divisions in Lebanese society. It went beyond that to make them entirely incidental to the task at hand, which was certainly not national reconciliation.

The respondents' views sadly underscored the limitations of their political horizons after the bleak years of civil war. They achieved consensus on two points: They knew what they did not want, and that was the leadership of traditional and militia leaders, and they agreed that candidates who are knowledgeable in economic affairs could best represent their political aspirations now. This could have been a vote for task-oriented, "new men"--those not linked to parties or traditional blocs. The fact that there are so few candidates who fill that description suggests that there is a great distance between the respondents' hopes and Lebanon's political realities. Unfortunately, this gap is not new.

The results obtained from the study clearly indicate the continuation of sectarianism as the basic source of the political attachment of the masses to their elites. Although political divisions were revealed within some confessional groups, they still revolved around sectarian-based allegiances. The attention given to religious figures and movements revealed a slight trend toward the deepening of sectarian consciousness especially among some Muslim respondents. They appreciated the clear, simple principles and uplifting messages of some of the Muslim clergy, who promise a brighter future in exchange for present day, self-imposed hardships.

Yet parochial attachments need not be canceled by democracy if political leaders can rise above self-promoting attitudes to face the needs of the country as a whole and to deal honestly with them. Failing that, no movement can be made toward resolving the basic schism in Lebanon's body politic nor toward promoting a civic polity and the Lebanese may again pay the price for this tragic irresponsibility.


(1.)See "Democratization in the Middle East," a report by the American Political Science Association, American-Arab Affairs, No. 36, (Spring 1991), pp. 1-30; John L. Esposito and James P. Piscatori, "Democratization and Islam," Middle East Journal, Vol. 45, No. 3, (Summer 1991), pp. 427-440, and Hilal Khashan, "The Quagmire of Arab Democracy," Arab Studies Quarterly, Vol. 14, No. 1, (Winter 1992), pp. 17-33.

(2.)Samir Khalaf analyzes the social and psychological effects of the Lebanese conflict in "Ideologies of Enmity in Lebanon", Middle East Insight, Vol. VI, Nos. 1 and 2, (Summer 1988), pp. 3-17. See especially p. 9.

(3.)See for instance Iliya F. Harik, "Political Elites of Lebanon," in G. Lenczowski, ed. Political Elites in the Middle East, (Washington,: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, 1975), pp.214-215; Michael Suleiman, Political Parties in Lebanon, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1967), p. 265; and Malcolm Kerr, Political Decision Making in a Confessional Society," in L. Binder, ed. Politics in Lebanon, (New York: Wiley, 1966), p. 202.

(4.)See Nissim Rejewan, "Pax Syrian for Lebanon" Midstream (October 1991), pp. 9-11. and Marius Deeb, "The External Dimension of the Conflict in Lebanon: The Role of Syria", Journal of South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. XII, No. 3, (Spring 1989), pp. 37-51.

(5.)Salim Nasr, Center for Peace and Reconstruction in Lebanon, The Lebanese Parliament: The Vacant Seats, Background Paper no. 6, May 1990.

(6.)See Arnon Soffer, "Lebanon: Where Demography is the Core of Politics and Life," Middle Eastern Studies, 22 (April 1986), pp. 197-205.

(7.)Farid el-Khazen, "The Communal Pact of National Identities: The Making and Politics of the 1943 National Pact," (Oxford, Centre for Lebanese Studies, 1991).

(8.)Michael C. Hudson, "The Problem of Authoritative Power in Lebanese Politics: Why Consociationalism Failed," in Nadim Shehadi and Dana Haffar Mills, eds., Lebanon a History of Conflict and Consensus, (London L I.B. Taurus and Company, Ltd. 1988), pp. 19-37, 182-199.

(9.)See Elizabeth Crighton and Martha Abele MacIver, "The Evolution of Protracted Ethnic Conflict; Group Dominance and Political Underdevelopment in Northern Ireland and Lebanon," Journal of Comparative Politics, 23, No. 2, (January 1991), pp. 128-132.

(10.)This helplessness and muteness is also seen in the few and abortive attempts to organize protests and to transform problems into public issues in Lebanon, as compared to other democratic societies undergoing collective suffering. Khalaf, "Ideologies ...," p. 13.

(11.)See Samir Khalaf, Lebanon's Predicament, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987), pp. 73-101.

(12.)Ibid., p. 134. Khalaf notes that from 1920-1972, 425 deputies belonging to 245 families have occupied a total of 965 seats in 16 Assemblies. Over this time span he found that only 28% of all MPs were unrelated to other parliamentarians.

(13.)Hilal Khashan, "The Political Values of Lebanese Maronites," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 34, No. 4, (December 1990), pp. 723-724.

(14.)For instance see Lewis W. Snider's study, "The Lebanese Forces: Their Origins and Role in Lebanon's Politics," Middle East Journal, Vol. 38, No. 1, (Winter 1984), pp. 1-33.

(15.)For background and insights into contemporary Druze politics, see John Brenton Betts, The Druze, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988).

(16.)See Augustus Richard Norton, "Shi'ism and Social Protest in Lebanon," in Juan R.I. Cole and Nikki R. Keddie, eds., Shi'ism and Social Prospect, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986), pp. 156-178.

(17.)See Middle East Contemporary Survey, 1988-1991, Vols. XII-XIV, issued by the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Tel Aviv University, (Boulder: Westview Press) for chronologies and reports.

(18.)See Judith P. Harik, "Pan-Arabism in the Post-Gulf Period: Signals from Lebanon's Druze Community," The Third Way, (November 1991), pp. 11-13.

(19.)Judith P. Harik, "Perceptions of Community and State Among Lebanon's Druze Youth," forthcoming in The Middle East Journal (Winter 1993), pp. 13 and 29. Druze youth overwhelmingly endorsed the Junblats as their most respected political figures and named Maronite leaders as next in importance to them.

(20.)See Michael Johnson, Class and Client in Beirut: The Sunni Muslim Community and the Lebanese State, 1840-1985, (London: Ithaca Press, 1986), pp. 212-213 and Helena Cobban, "Lebanon's Chinese Puzzle," Foreign Policy, 53, (Winter 1983-84), pp. 41-43.

(21.)See As'ad Abu Khalil, "Druze, Sunni and Shiite Political Leadership in Present-Day Lebanon", Arab Studies Quarterly, Vol. 7, No. 4, (Winter 1985), pp. 35-39, wherein the author discusses the Sunnis' tendency to move away from traditional and toward religious leaders.

(22.)See Randa Abul-Husn, "National Political Ideologies and Communal Identity Among the Druze in Lebanon," unpublished MA thesis, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, The American University of Beirut, 1989, where reference to Druze membership in various leftist parties is discussed.

(23.)For background on political development in the Maronite community, see Marie-Christine Aulas, "The Socio-Ideological Development of the Maronite Community: The Emergence of the Phalanges and the Lebanese Forces," Arab Studies Quarterly, Vol. 7, No. 4, (Fall 1985), pp. 1-27.

(24.)Frederick Schiff "The Lebanese Prince: the Aftermath of the Continuing Civil War," Journal of South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. XII, No. 3 (Spring 1983), p. 23.

(25.)For an explanation of patron-client relations in Lebanon, see Malcolm Kerr, "Political Decision Making in a Confessional Democracy," in Leonard Binder, ed., Politics in Lebanon, P. 190; and Samir Khalaf, Lebanon's Predicament, pp. 73-101, for an analysis of changing forms of patronage.
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Author:Khashan, Hilal
Publication:Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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