Path: Table of Countries --> Lebanon since 1963
LEBANON: The Party System from 1963 to 2000, by Dan Corstange*

The 1980 edition of Political Parties described Lebanon as a "confessional democracy" because of "the constitutional status accorded to its religious groupings, which are recognized by law as forming the basis for political representation" (Janda, 1980: 841). Despite occasional and irregular calls for the "deconfessionalization" of Lebanese politics, the political arena remains sharply drawn on sectarian lines. The tendency for political parties to represent the interests of individual sectarian or ethnic groups--an inclination further cemented during the civil war from 1975-1989--has resulted in a party system that functions unlike the more familiar Western models. The evolution of this system after the original ICPP time period can be broken down into three distinct phases: one of increased polarization from 1963-1974, one of civil war from 1975-1989, and one of post-Ta’if reconciliation from 1990-present.

Increased Polarization

Tensions ran high in 1958 as the National Assembly met to decide on the successor to President Camille Chamoun. Egypt and Syria had recently joined together to form the United Arab Republic, and Nasser, invigorated by this diplomatic success, looked to further expand the influence of his pan-Arabist agenda. Lebanon, traditionally close to Syria, was a logical next step, a fact not all Lebanese relished. Fearing among other things that pan-Arabism would inevitably evolve into a de facto pan-Islamism, Lebanon’s Christian community especially sought to avoid being swept along by the waxing Arab zeitgeist.

It was in this context that the National Assembly elected Fu’ad Chehab, the Commander of the Army, to the presidency. Chehab was a Maronite Christian, following the unwritten convention that a Maronite would hold the presidency. He by no means had universal Christian backing, however. Chehab was pro-Nasser, and for this reason many Christian groups opposed him (although, interestingly enough, Pierre Gemayel and his Kata’eb Party supported the choice of Chehab). Due to his views on Nasser, and also due to his attempts to develop the non-Christian communities, the Chehab administration was very popular among Muslims.

In one of the myriad examples of strange Lebanese political alliances, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) staged a coup on the last day of 1961. Thought the coup itself was foiled and the SSNP suppressed, the more interesting aspect of the coup was the makeup of its support base. Syria had recently pulled out of the UAR, and the SSNP now advocated pan-Syrianism--a less ambitious form of pan-Arabism advocating a Greater Syria rather than a united Arab state. In a political twist, many Christians supported the SSNP--despite their disapproval of pan-Syrianism--because it appeared to be aimed at reversing the Lebanese government’s conciliatory policy toward Nasser.

The attempted coup was a symptom of how much foreign affairs and the idea of the Lebanese place among the Arab states affected domestic politics and security; taking sides in the international arena meant taking sides domestically, with greater implications than in other states. Recognizing this, the Chehab administration attempted to take "the maximum possible neutrality at the international level" and "the maximum possible accommodation to Nasserist policy" in order to avoid provoking extreme reactions akin to the coup (Salibi, 1976: 14).

Another growing problem for the Lebanese state was the disproportionate development of the various communal groups within its borders. The Shi’a community in particular was so poorly developed--economically, socially, and politically--that it could not adequately take up the share of public offices allotted to it under convention. Despite its numerical clout (with a population total and growth rate higher than all other communities in the state), offices "reserved" for Shi’a officials were taken over to a large degree by Druze and Sunnis. Likewise, among Christians, the politically aggressive Maronites got more than their share of public offices at the expense of the Greek Orthodox and other unaggressive Christian communities (Salibi, 1976: 18). Tensions would continue to mount throughout the 1960s, when some communities started to organize politically to press for reforms. Kamal Jumblatt, for instance, founded the National Movement in 1969 to advocate constitutional reform and changes to the electoral law, and among other things the abolishment of the 6:5 ratio of Christian to Muslim deputies in the National Assembly. Imam Musa as-Sadr, meanwhile, took the leadership of the Higher Islamic Council in 1969, pressing for better representation and development for Muslims, especially his Shi’a constituency in south Lebanon.

Yet another intractable problem facing Lebanese political life was the Palestinian issue. The Palestinians--at roughly 10 percent of the population--proved to be a destabilizing force in a number of ways. They were neither willing residents, nor necessarily accepted by the Lebanese establishment, as when in 1966 a carefully engineered conspiracy of the tradition Lebanese bourgeoisie brought down the wildly successful Palestinian Intra Bank (Salibi, 1976: 30). This and other provocations led to increased bitterness on both sides.

The natural friction between the Palestinians on the one hand and Lebanese Christians and conservative Lebanese Muslims on the other was further exacerbated by later events, starting with the establishment of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in 1964. This trend was greatly accelerated after the disastrous June War of 1967, when Palestinian fedayeen stepped up their guerrilla campaign against Israel. Previously, Lebanese policy attempted to prevent PLO operations from Lebanese soil, in fear of provoking an Israeli response and possible invasion. In addition, the Lebanese government was disinclined to allow the PLO the degree of autonomy the organization wanted to run its operations, viewing it as a threat to Lebanese sovereignty.

When in 1968 Prime Minister ‘Abdallah al-Yafi publicly pronounced himself in favor of removing restrictions on the fedayeen, the three Christian parties most concerned with the commando movement--Chamoun’s National Liberal Party (NLP), Raymond Edde’s National Bloc (NB), and Gemayel’s Kata’eb--joined to form a common opposition front called the Triple Alliance (al-Hilf al-Thulathi). After a looser coalition won a respectable number of seats in the 1964 elections, the Alliance in 1968 obtained very strong representation in the legislature. Though still in the opposition, they were much more formidable than before, requiring President Charles Hilu (elected in 1964 as a compromise candidate) to take their views into account.

At the end of 1968, Lebanon faced the first real Israeli retaliation for Palestinian activities, when a clandestine Israeli commando group in a surprise attack blew up a number of airliners at the Beirut airport and fled. Radical parties charged that the army should be used to defend the state against Israel rather than hamper the fedayeen, and this position gained considerable popular support. Throughout much of 1969, the army and the fedayeen engaged in a series of violent clashes, and by October no Sunni leader could be found that was willing to form a government while the fighting continued. Finally, the Hilu administration signed on to the Cairo Agreement on November 3, which essentially gave the Palestinian guerrillas free reign to engage in attacks from Lebanese soil with army protection of their supply lines.

By March of 1970, however, Alliance predictions were vindicated as Israeli raids forced increasing numbers of Lebanese from the south to migrate to Beirut, where they took up residence as squatters on the outskirts. The Kata’eb militia began now to confront the fedayeen with armed men. Though temporary ceasefires were negotiated, they acted as little more than stopgap measures. After the election of opposition candidate Suleiman Faranjiyya to the presidency in August of 1970, and his subsequent efforts to reign in the excesses of the guerrillas, tensions continued to simmer. The 1972 legislative election brought in a considerable number of new faces to the National Assembly, but little change in policy.

Clashes between the fedayeen and the army erupted again in 1973, with the Palestinians convinced that the Lebanese authorities wanted them liquidated and the Lebanese Christians increasingly believing that Lebanon’s sovereignty could not be guaranteed without the removal of the Palestinian threat. Christian factions now began to search for means to arm their militias and supporters, with the full knowledge of Lebanese authorities. "Lebanon was thus turned into a powder keg with a fuse attached, and there was no telling when it would be made to explode" (Salibi, 1976: 70). Christian groups, predominantly the Kata’eb Party, were fighting a two-front conflict, however. They opposed the fedayeen, but they also opposed attempts by the Muslim establishment to reform the electoral system to achieve more equitable representation for Muslims. Hence, on the eve of the civil war, lines were already drawn between Christians and fedayeen, Christians and Muslims, fedayeen and conservative Muslims, and between radical and conservative Muslims.

Civil War

The events of the Lebanese civil war are well-documented elsewhere, so only a broad outline needs to be sketched here to provide the context for Lebanese political activity. After years of mounting tensions and intersectarian confrontation, the civil war started in earnest in April of 1975, sparked when shots were fired at a church, followed by the ambush of busload of Palestinians by Christians. The Palestinian Fedayeen joined the loose leftist-Muslim alliance, after which the fighting mounted.

Despite the political and social deterioration of public life, Lebanon’s political establishment continued to function--at times sporadically--throughout the war. Statewide elections were clearly out of the question, since the violence and intimidation would have made "free and fair" balloting impossible. As a stopgap measure, the 1972 legislature extended its own mandate in what was hoped would be extraordinary (and temporary) circumstances. Attempting to maintain some governmental stability and normality, the National Assembly dutifully selected the new president in 1976, electing Elias Sarkis to a six-year term.

Arab summits were held that year in Riyadh and Cairo to plan an end to the war. The resulting Arab Deterrent Force (ADF)--composed primarily of Syrian troops--moved in at the Lebanese government’s invitation to separate the combatants. This uneasy truce was strained in 1977 after repeated clashes between the Palestinian-leftist alliance and the Army of South Lebanon (SLA), Israel’s proxy militia in the south. Israel invaded the south in March of 1978, prompting Security Council Resolution 425, calling for Israeli withdrawal and the deployment of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Israel later withdrew and turned over its positions to the SLA. Tensions between Israel and the Fedayeen remained high, however, and armed confrontations were frequent.

In 1981, the United States brokered a cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinian guerrillas, but the relative peace did not last long. In June of 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon in the Peace for Galilee campaign, allying with prominent Christian militias. These alliances signaled exactly how fragmented and polarized the country had become. Despite both the civil war and the Israeli occupation, however, presidential elections were held in the National Assembly as called for. Bashir Gemayel, leader of the Kata'eb Party, was selected in August, but was assassinated in September. The next day, Israeli troops entered West Beirut, and shortly thereafter the Sabra and Shatila massacres occurred. Amin Gemayel, Bashir’s brother, was elected to replace him.

In May 1983 Israel signed a withdrawal agreement after a US-brokered peace agreement between the two countries. By early 1984, however, the Lebanese army had experienced a virtual collapse, with the defection of many of its Muslim and Druze units to opposition militias. Faced with paralysis and massive opposition to the accommodations reached with Israel, the Lebanese government canceled the unimplemented peace agreement in March.

The "Camps War" between Palestinians in the refugee camps and the Shi’a Amal Movement raged from 1985-1986. Meanwhile, Syria tried to negotiate a "tripartite accord" on political reform among various Lebanese factions. Though an agreement was eventually signed, Gemayel opposed it, partially on the grounds that it raised the political clout of Muslims at the expense of Christians. Syria induced the Muslim government ministers to cease dealing with Gemayel, which brought the government to paralysis yet again.

By September of 1988, Gemayel’s term in the presidency had run out, but the different factions in the National Assembly could not agree on a new candidate. Just before leaving from office, Gemayel appointed as interim prime minister Army Commander General Michel Awn, who by virtue of his Christian faith was not a legitimate choice according to convention. Acting prime minister Salim al-Huss continued to operate as de facto prime minister, effectively splitting the administration in to a Muslim government in West Beirut and a Christian government in East Beirut.

Post-Ta’if Reconciliation

The Document of National Understanding--known as the Ta’if Agreement after the Saudi city where negotiations took place--was the draft of the amended constitution which created the Second Lebanese Republic. It represented a crucial first step toward communal reconciliation, as representatives from the major confessional and ethnic groups signed on to the agreement. The accord reinstitutionalized many of the features of the previous constitution, but with important reforms that reconfigured the balance of power between groups. Though the confessional system was maintained, the document declared the end of the system to be a national goal. The distribution of power was amended to provide for equal representation in the National Assembly between Christians and Muslims, replacing the 6:5 advantage the former had over the latter.

Though the old conventions pertaining to leading officerholders was maintained--a Maronite as president, a Sunni as prime minister, and a Shi’a as Speaker of the National Assembly--their relative strengths were reformed to give more power to the Muslim elements. In what has become known as the "Troika," the new powersharing arrangement emphasized collegial decisionmaking. By seeking decisions through consensus, the new government would theoretically be able to reduce communal tensions by achieving consent on all parts, though this also raised the possibility of paralysis.

Furthermore, the Ta’if Accord represented an attempt to re-establish the authority of the central government throughout the country. It called to disband the militias--without explaining how--and to strengthen government forces. In the same vein, it also called for Syria to withdraw its forces to the Biqa’ region of the countryside and to establish a joint Syrian-Lebanese mechanism for making future decisions about the position and function of Syrian troops in the country.

The Ta’if Agreement met with a mixed welcome after it was announced. Syria itself voiced its support, but several Syrian-backed militia leaders--e.g., Walid Jumblatt and Nabi Berri--said that it was both superficial and overly favorable to Sunnis. Most Maronite leaders accepted the Agreement and their relative loss of political power as inevitable, but Awn rejected it. Rene Moawad was elected president in November, and Awn refused to recognize him. After Moawad’s assassination later in the month, Elias Hraoui was elected, and selected Salim al-Huss as prime minister. Awn refused to recognize al-Huss either, and these repeated antagonisms touched off the last major round of hostilities of the civil war, as government forces--mostly Muslim brigades--under General Sami al-Khatib and later General Emil Lahoud mounted a campaign to overthrow Awn and his mostly Christian brigades. A joint Lebanese-Syrian operation forced Awn to capitulate in October of 1990, who took refuge in the French embassy and was later allowed to take up exile in France.

In May of 1991, all the militias--with the important exception of Hizbullah, which continued operations against Israel and the SLA in the south--were disbanded, paving the way for return to what passed as normal life in Lebanon. On May 30, it signed the Treaty of Cooperation with Syria, which enshrined a strong security relationship between the two states, with Lebanon clearly acting as the junior partner. As Article Three of the Agreement states: "The connection between the security of the two countries requires that Lebanon not become a threat to Syria’s security and vice versa under any circumstances. Therefore Lebanon will not allow itself to become a transit point or base for any force, state, or organization that seeks to undermine its security or that of Syria. Syria, which cherishes Lebanon’s security, independence, and unity and the agreement among its people, will not allow any action that threatens Lebanon’s security, independence, and sovereignty" (

The 1992 elections to the National Assembly marked the first time since 1972 that the Lebanese had chosen deputies. As per the constitution, the 1972 legislature repeatedly extended its own mandate due to the impossibility of ensuring fair and secure balloting. The 1992 election, however, was marred in a number of aspects. First and foremost, many Christian parties boycotted the election because Syria had not withdrawn its military forces as stipulated in the Ta’if Agreement. They argued that it would be impossible to return unbiased results with the presence of a foreign presence. As a result, turnout among Christians was extremely low. In this sense, the 1992 legislature could hardly be considered an accurate representation of the electorate. Meanwhile, there were widespread reports of irregularities at the balloting booths, making Lebanon’s first return steps to elected government stumbling ones.

The deputies to the National Assembly were generally sympathetic to Syrian interests, if not outright supporters. In addition, Islamic revivalist parties like Hizbullah and Amal made impressive showings relative to other parties. Amal leader Nabi Berri was elected by his colleagues to take the powerful post of Speaker of the National Assembly, which as stipulated in the Ta’if blueprint was now all but guaranteed for the four year mandate of the legislature.

Events in the 1996 betrayed both the secular/pragmatic bent of certain Lebanese elites and the depth of Syrian influence in the country. Prime Minister Rafik Hariri launched a political offensive against the revivalist parties--especially Hizbullah--in an alliance with Berri. Lebanese balloting is held over the course of several rounds (five in 1996) on successive weekends, and early results showed smashing victories for Hariri and his supporters; the prime minister’s 16-member list, for instance, won 13 of the 19 seats in Beirut. After that round, with 82 of the 128 seats decided, Hariri and his allies controlled 55 (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, "Prime minister Hariri defeats fundamentalists in Beirut polls"). The contentious coalition of "Islamic groupings"--already at odds over ideology--seemed in disarray and faced a dramatic reversal of electoral fortunes following Hariri’s earlier victories in the Mount Lebanon and Northern Lebanon polling (Deutsche Press-Agentur, "Beirut’s political giants set for fierce election battle").

Syria had to this point refrained from overtly influencing the campaign so that the election would be seen as free and fair. A few days after Hariri’s success in the Beirut district, the Deutsche Press-Agentur observed: "Syria, in a demonstration of its control over Lebanese politics, on Wednesday halted a political offensive by Prime Minister Rafik Hariri against… Hizbullah in this year’s parliamentary elections. Syrian leaders meeting in Damascus with Lebanese House Speaker Nabih Berri… pressured him to shift his alliance to Hizbullah and turn against his partner in power, [Prime Minister Hariri]" ("Syria acts to support Hizbullah in Lebanese elections"). Hariri nonetheless urged the electorate in southern Lebanon--Hizbullah’s base, where it struggled for dominance with Berri’s Amal Movement--to vote for the secular-oriented Berri rather than Hizbullah candidates. After Syrian intervention, Hizbullah shored up its disappointing early performance, losing just one seat in the legislature overall.

The results of the 1996 balloting as a whole showed a victory for Hariri and the pro-Syrian camp, with a decline for the revivalist parties. After the final results were in, the Deutsche Press-Agentur noted that "foreign diplomatic sources said the new legislature will be ‘more flexible and malleable’ than the incumbent one because it was formed from electoral alliances sponsored, sometimes forged by Syria" ("Lebanon’s new parliament will grant Syria upper hand in politics"). The results should not be viewed as a victory for the party system, however. No individual party gained a large overall percentage of the seats, and the legislature was fragmented among many small parties, with a majority being new additions to the political landscape. Many of these uninstitutionalized parties will likely not survive far past their first election, becoming mere footnotes in Lebanese history. Meanwhile, a victory for the Lebanese prime minister does not hold the same implications that it would in most other parliaments. Hariri’s allies won a majority of the seats, but this does not mean that they were claimed by sympathetic parties. A considerable number of the 1996 deputies were independents, whose loyalty is based more on personality and interest than on party program or advancement. This legislature later in 1998 elected General Emil Lahoud to the presidency, despite objections to his military career. Lahoud then selected Salim al-Huss as his prime minister.

It is difficult to predict the outcome of the next legislative elections, slated to begin in August of 2000. Perhaps the only sure bet, however, will be Hizbullah, barring some campaign disaster of epic proportions. With the unilateral Israeli withdrawal and collapse of the SLA in the south in 2000, the popularity and prestige of Hizbullah has skyrocketed in the country, where many people--rightly or not--credit the party’s militia with driving out the Israeli occupation troops. The honor of being the first resistance movement to actually accomplish its goal will make the party wildly popular in South Lebanon at least, and will increase its standing throughout the rest of the country as well. Likewise, its pragmatic and restrained behavior upon moving in to the former Israeli "security zone" has done much to increase its standing as a responsible party.

Several key features distinguish the Lebanese party system and political life from Western-style democracies. As Landau notes, "ordinarily, Lebanese elections do not develop into a single national campaign. Instead there are several campaigns going on independently, or at least only loosely connected" (Landau, 1980: 51). This is indeed the case, as legislative elections are broken down into successive rounds based on a geographical electorate breakdown. It is therefore possible for a party to successfully acquire seats in the National Assembly when running in only one of the zones, as several of the assumed regional parties of the 1996 elections did. Indeed, even the more nationally-oriented parties are stronger in zones where there are more of their coreligionists or ethnic supporters; Hizbullah, for example, is strongest in South Lebanon, which has a high percentage of Shi’a and is the base for its militia’s attacks on Israel and the SLA. In addition, having successive rounds of elections encourages ad hoc coalitions to form midway through voting as parties attempt to shore up their support, as happened in 1996 with the sudden alliance of the Amal Movement and Hizbullah.

What deputies represent is also an important deviation. "Most deputies do not represent political parties as they are known in the West, nor do they form Western-style groups in the assembly. Political blocs are usually based on confessional and local interests or on personal allegiance rather than political affinities" (Department of State, "Background Notes: Lebanon"). The Lebanese legislature tends, in this sense, to have a large number of deputies with no party affiliation. In addition, it is often the case that sectarian association is a more important factor than party affiliation in determining government and legislative policy, especially considering the rigid quota system put in place to ensure every confessional group a set representation in the National Assembly. 

  • Community Quota
    • Maronite Christian 34
    • Sunni Muslim 27
    • Shi’a Muslim 27
    • Greek Orthodox 14
    • Greek Catholic 8
    • Druze 8
    • Armenian Orthodox 5
    • Alawite 2
    • Armenian Catholic 1
    • Protestant 1
    • Christian Minority 1
    • Total 128
  • The problems facing the sectarian political system has provoked repeated calls from various faction leaders for a deconfessionalization of the party and electoral system. A dearth of cross-cutting cleavages in Lebanese political life--exacerbated by the civil war--has encouraged some groups to view other groups as adversaries and to look for security among their own coreligionists or own ethnicity. As Nawaf Salam notes, "true deconfessionalization will therefore depend on the emergence and development of new and significant non-confessional social forces and pressure groups. Accordingly, the ‘gradual’ process of deconfessionalization can only materialize as an expression of the stages of the growth of such forces and groups. Here, civil society with its trade unions, businessmen associations, professional organizations, and other similar groups with interests cutting across sectarian barriers, provides us with successful models of what non-sectarian institutions may look like and how they can be run" (Salam, <>. 

    Continuity and Change in Political Parties, 1963-2000

    Original Parties, from 1950-1962, still continuing to 2000

    761 Progressive Socialist Party (al-Hizb at-Taqaddumi al-Ishtiraki--PSP) Currently led by Walid Jumblatt--the son of founder Kamal Jumblatt--the PSP is a Druze, democratic socialist party and a member of the Socialist International. The PSP participated in the 1992 elections despite Jumblatt’s assertions that they were being held too soon after the Ta’if Accords. The party placed no deputies in the 1996 elections.

    764 Phalangist Party (al-Kata’eb al-Lubnaniyah--Kata’eb) The Kata’eb is a right-wing, fascist-influenced Maronite party led by former president Amin Gemayal, who returned from a long and involuntary stay in France in mid-2000. It joined the Maronite boycott of the 1992 elections, and did the same in 1996 to protest a new electoral law designed to break up the principally Christian electorate of Mount Lebanon.

    765 Nationalist Bloc/Union (al-Kutla al-Wataniya--NB) A right-wing Maronite party led by Raymond Edde, the NB joined other Maronite groups in boycotting the 1992 elections as premature. It returned to the 1996 elections--after Edde threatened another boycott over the electoral law--to become the second-largest party in the legislature behind the Party of Freedom and Development.

    766 National Liberal Party (al-Hizb al-Kutla al-Huriya--NLP) A right-of-center Maronite party led by Dory Chamoun--son of former president Camille Chamoun--the NLP joined other Maronite parties in boycotting the 1992 elections. It also boycotted the 1996 elections over the new electoral law designed to break up the principally Christian electorate of Mount Lebanon.

    New Parties formed after 1962 and continuing to 2000

    767 Party of Freedom and Development (Hizb al-Huriya wal-Nushuw’) Little is written of this party, which first emerged in the 1996 election.

    768 Resistance Front (al-Harakat al-Muqawama) Little is written of this party, which first emerged in the 1996 election.

    769 Party of Loyalty to the Resistance (Hizb Amana lil-Muqawama) Little is written of this party, which first emerged in the 1996 election.

    7610 Party of Beirut Decision (Hizb Qararat Beirut) Little is written of this party, which first emerged in the 1996 election. As its name suggests, it is probably a regional party based in the Beirut electorate.

    7611 Party of Development and Change (Hizb al-Nushuw’ wal-Tagheyur) Little is written of this party, which first emerged in the 1996 election.

    7612 Party of Armenian Deputies (Hizb al-Nawa’ib al-Armeniyun) Little is written of this party, which first emerged in the 1996 election. As its name suggests, it is probably an ethnic Armenian party.

    7613 Party of North Metn (Hizb Metn as-Shimali) Little is written of this party, which first emerged in the 1996 election. As its name suggests, it is probably a regional party centered on the North Metn region.

    7614 Party of Kesrouan Deputies (Hizb al-Nawa’ib al-Kesrouiyun) Little is written of this party, which first emerged in the 1996 election. As the name suggests, it is probably an ethnic party.

    7615 Syrian People’s Party (Hizb as-Shakhsi as-Suri) Little is written of this party, which first emerged in the 1996 election. As the name suggests, it is probably a pro-Syrian, socialist party.

    7616 Syrian Social National Party (al-Hizb as-Suri al-Qawmi al Ijtima’i--SSNP) The SSNP, led by Ina’m Ra’d, advocates the creation of a greater Syria, including Cyprus, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria. The party was suppressed after staging an attempted coup in 1961, though has returned. The SSNP is non-sectarian, and won a relatively considerable number of seats in the 1992 elections, helped no doubt by the Syrian military presence. The SSNP did not place any deputies in the 1996 elections.

    7617 Renaissance Party (al-Hizb al-Ba’th--Ba’th) The Lebanese branch of the Syrian Ba’th Party was founded in the 1940s, but enjoyed only limited support. In the 1970s it was part of the leftist National Movement that sought greater constitutional equality for Muslims. The Syrian wing of the party (as compared to the minority Iraqi wing) controls the party--thanks in part to the Syrian military presence--under the leadership of regional secretary Assem Qansou. The Ba’th is among the minority of continuing Lebanese parties that does not organize itself along confessional lines, favoring instead a secular, socialist ideology. The party took a small number of seats in the 1992 elections, but did not place deputies in 1996.

    7618 Hope Movement (al-Harakat al-Amal--Amal) A former Shi’a militia, Amal led the Liberation List to a strong showing in the 1992 elections. The party’s leader, Nabi Berri, was then elected to the post of Speaker of the National Assembly. Amal joined Hizbullah in a Syrian-brokered alliance in the second half of the 1996 elections after Berri was pressured to drop his alliance with then-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who had launched a full-scale political offensive on revivalist parties. In addition to meaning "hope" in Arabic, "AMAL" also is the acronym for the movement’s old militia, Afwaj al-Muqawama al-Lubnaniya (Detachments of Lebanese Resistance).

    7619 Party of God (Hizb Allah -- Hizbullah) The predominantly Shi’a Hizbullah emerged in Lebanon in response to the 1982 Israeli invasion. Originally a doctrinaire party calling for jihad against occupying forces and the implementation of Islamic rule, Hizbullah has since adopted a more pragmatic outlook after winning seats in the 1992 elections. Hizbullah joined the Amal Movement in a Syrian-brokered alliance in the second half of the 1996 elections, which helped curtail the loss of seats the party would otherwise have suffered.

    7620 Tashnak Party (al-Hizb al-Tashnak) The Tashnak Party was originally founded in 1890 in Russia to protest the living conditions of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire. The Lebanese party disavowed the Russian wing’s original ideology of socialism, and is instead considered to be part of the right-wing, Maronite-oriented establishment. Party membership is exclusively Armenian, and draws from a variety of social classes, though its leadership comes from the political and economic elite. During the civil war, the leadership took a moderate stance, refusing to form a party militia so as not to antagonize other sectarian groups. Nonetheless, the Tashnak Party’s historical alliance with the Maronite parties meant that many individuals joined in the war efforts. The party was represented in the 1992 legislature, but not in the 1996.

    7621 Islamic Community (al-Jama’a al-Islamiya--JI) The JI, founded in 1964 and originally led by Fathi Yakan and Mulammad ‘Ali ad-Dinnawi, is a militant Sunni movement. It advocates the establishment of shari’a (Islamic Law) as the sole law of the Lebanese state. The JI established a militia, al-Mujahidun (the Religious Strugglers), in 1976, which participated in the civil war with the leftist-Islamic coalition. The JI placed deputies in 1992, but not 1996.

    7622 Promise Party (Hizb al-Wa’d) The Promise Party originated as a militia in 1986, when Elie Hubayqa was overthrown as commander of the Lebanese Forces by Samir Ja’ja’ for his acceptance of the 1985 Syrian-brokered Tripartite Agreement. Hubayqa, with Syrian support and captured wealth from the coffers of the Lebanese Forces, maintained a rival militia in the hinterland. He re-entered East Beirut in 1990 after the defeat of General Awn and opened offices for his militia. This event marks the origin of the Promise Party as a political party. It gained representation in the 1992 elections, but did not place any deputies in 1996.

    Original Parties from 1950-1962 terminating before 2000

    762 Constitutionalist Bloc/Union (al Kutla ad-Dusturiya--CB) The CB played a significant role in post-independence Lebanon and up to the early 1970s. It did not place deputies in the extended 1972 legislature, and did not contest the 1992 and 1996 elections. The party can be considered defunct, though Khalil al-Khuri--son of party founder and first Lebanese president Bishara al-Khuri--still considers himself party leader from his home in France, where he lived during the civil war.


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    *Participant in Northwestern University's Summer Camp for Political Party Research, June-August, 2000