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Lebanon - Politics

Lebanon is a parliamentary republic based on the 1943 National Pact, which apportions governmental authority among a Maronite Christian president, a Shia speaker of the Chamber of Deputies (parliament), and a Sunni prime minister. On October 31, Michel Aoun was elected by parliament to the presidency, ending more than two years of political deadlock. Observers considered the 2009 parliamentary elections peaceful, free, and fair. The parliament postponed subsequent parliamentary elections, granting themselves two extensions, first in 2013 and then again in November 2014. These elections were rescheduled for May 2017, and then May 2018.

The new electoral law implemented a proportional system that awards seats by the share of vote received, instead of the former winner-takes-all system in each district. It reduces the number of electoral constituencies from 23 to 15, and allows voters to choose both an electoral list and a preferred candidate from that list. In theory, it should allow candidates beyond traditional power players to win a seat in parliament. But it also preserves the sectarian divvying-up of seats in different districts; Muslims and Christians each get around half, and smaller communities the remainder.

Even though the civil war ended 28 years ago, politics are still dominated by former warlords and family dynasties embroiled in sectarian divides. These elites grip on power has always enabled them to settle elections before voters get to the polls. Almost everyone in the country complains about it. The same political dynasties dominating year after year, whether in government or parliament. Politicians work for their sect, or their own families. None managing to repair an electricity system thats been decrepit for decades or organize the proper collection of garbage because of business feuds among the political elite.

The war in Syria deepened existing divisions in Lebanon, with Hezbollah and its allies backing Assad's regime, while Hariri and his partners support the uprising against him. More than one million Syrian refugees sought shelter in Lebanon.

The 2008 Doha Agreement was an acknowledgement that no major decisions of the Lebanese Government can be effective without the consent of all major religious communities, regardless of how large the majority supporting the Government in the House of Deputies may be. This Agreement was not consistent with the provision of the written Constitution to which the Lebanese polity is supposed to refer in resolving their political differences.

The Doha Agreement, like the ones preceding it, was a tacit acknowledgement by the Lebanese political leaders that constitutional rule in Lebanon is subordinate to the consensus of its major religious communities, irrespective of the democratic rule under which the parliamentary minority submits to the majority. When such a consensus occurs, all constitutional barriers can be removed either within or outside the constitutional process, as illustrated by the election of the current President of the Republic before the expiration of the two-year period prescribed in article 49 of the Constitution.

Lebanon's president is reserved for a Christian candidate under a power-sharing agreement. Lebanese lawmakers voted overwhelmingly 05 November 2014 to extend their mandate by another two years and seven months, skipping scheduled elections for the second consecutive time amid deteriorating security conditions. Protesters blocked roads to Lebanons Parliament in a last-ditch attempt to halt the session. The vote to extend the mandate of the Parliament until June 2017 was held despite a boycott by two major Christian parties.

Since 2006, shortly after Rafik Hariris assassination and Syrias military withdrawal from Lebanon, Hezbollah has exercised an effective veto over Lebanese politics. It was Hezbollahs insistence that left Lebanon without a government for nearly two years before Saad Hariri acceded to the deal that made Hezbollah ally Michel Aoun president and returned Hariri himself to the prime ministry.

By removing Hariris Sunni fig leaf on a Hezbollah-dominated government in Lebanon, the Saudi leadership apparently hoped in 2017 to isolate Lebanon economically and politically, and so increase international pressure on Hezbollah to curb its regional activities in favor of shoring up its domestic legitimacy. The Hariri resignation was thus an indirect move to try and constrain Iranian behavior in other conflict arenas outside Lebanon itself.

Independent media outlets were active and expressed a wide variety of views. The majority of outlets had political affiliations, which hampered their ability to operate freely in areas dominated by other political groups and affected their reporting. Local, sectarian, and foreign interest groups financed media outlets that reflected their views.

The most significant human rights abuses are torture and abuse by security forces, harsh prison and detention center conditions, and limitations on freedom of movement for Palestinian and Syrian refugees. Other human rights abuses included lengthy pretrial detention; a judiciary subject to political pressure and long delays in trials; violation of citizens privacy rights; some restrictions on freedoms of speech and press, including intimidation of journalists; some restrictions on freedom of assembly; harassment of Syrian political activists and other refugees; restrictions on citizens ability to choose their government; official corruption and lack of transparency; widespread violence against women; societal, legal, and economic discrimination against women; societal and legal discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals; trafficking in persons; discrimination against persons with disabilities; systematic discrimination against Palestinian and other refugees and minority groups; killings related to societal violence; restricted labor rights for and abuse of migrant domestic workers; and child labor.

Despite the presence of Lebanese and UN security forces, Hizballah retained significant influence over parts of the country, and the government made no tangible progress toward disbanding and disarming armed militia groups, including Hizballah. Palestinian refugee camps continued to act as self-governed entities and maintained security and militia forces not under the direction of government officials.

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