By Nour Samaha and Alia Chughtai
At the crossroads
an @AJLabs explainer
The country has since been broadly split between two camps: the US and Saudi-backed March 14 camp and the pro-Syrian March 8 camp. Over the past decade, the two camps held different views, often clashing over how the country should be ruled. The government collapsed three times as a result - in 2005, 2011, and 2013.
Since May 2014, when the last president's term ended, Lebanon has been without a head of state.
The political deadlock has also translated into nearly all ministerial portfolios and security appointments, being further aggravated by mounting sectarian tensions.
Lebanon’s public debt
stood at $69bn by
June 2015, according
to statistics released
by Byblos Bank.
Unemployment rate stands at 24%, with youth unemployment at 35% in 2015.
48% of the workforce was informally employed, meaning
no contracts and no access to the National Social Security Fund.
Some regions of the country facing up to
11 hours of power cuts each day. The state-run Electricite Du Liban maintains an average annual deficit of nearly$2bn.
Lebanon's parliament has convened and failed to elect
a president 28 times since May 2014.
Lebanon was ranked 136th out of 175 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index in 2014.
Parliament has been unable to agree on the specifics of changing the current majority voting system to one based on proportional representation, so elections have been postponed twice.
Hezbollah and Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) have been boycotting the elections until a candidate can be agreed on by all parties. They want FPM leader Michel Aoun to be president, whereas March 14 strongly opposes.
Closure of Beirut and Mt Lebanon's main landfill, Naameh, led to thousands of tonnes
of rubbish piling up on the streets. No solution has been reached by the government,
no alternative landfill designated, and auctions for a new waste management scheme were cancelled only one day after they were announced.
Heart of conflict
Due to the presidential void, cabinet has been unable to pass a majority of decrees because they have yet to agree on a decision-making mechanism to tackle the items of the agenda.
Due to political bickering and the absence of a president, cabinet is unable to
agree on replacements for security chiefs who reached the age of retirement.
So, terms were simply extended without the unanimous approval of all parties,
further exacerbating the deadlock.
Lebanon has been facing power cuts for over a decade. Lack of investment and increasing demand has created a wide disparity between supply and demand.
An energy reform plan agreed on in 2010 has stalled without any tangible results.
The Lebanese government has been unable to pass a budget since 2005. A cascade of political crises and deadlocks have prevented the cabinet or parliament from agreeing on a budget.
In practice, the government operates on draft budget proposals from previous years.
For example, this year the government is operating on the draft budget proposal of 2013, supplemented with emergency funding decrees and eliminating all accountability and transparency in government expenditure.
Mass protests erupted across the country since August, sparked by the rubbish crisis. Protesters are demanding the minister of environment resign for mishandling the issue and failing to find a sustainable solution. They're also demanding that parliament conduct elections as soon as possible.
Civil society movements
The rubbish crisis resulted in the establishment of several grassroots civil society movements gaining momentum among the population as the crisis persists.
The You Stink! campaign is spearheading the protest movements, demanding the resignation
of the environment minister and the decentralisation of waste management to local municipalities.
We Want Accountability: came about soon after protesters were attacked by security forces in August, and demands holding the interior minister and security forces accountable. Their focus is to expose corruption in government ministries and calling for new parliamentary elections
Take To The Streets: largely a Facebook group sharing the demands of other movements, but is very specific in accusing all political factions of corruption, including Hezbollah. This movement gained publicity for sarcastic posters mocking political leaders across the divide.
The paralysis cost Lebanon - already in debt - a staggering $1bn - including international aid and grants.
There are 24 ministers in the cabinet. Current cabinet has been in existence since 2014:
belong to March 8 camp,
belong to the March 14 camp,
considered ‘middle’ and belong to camps of the former president, the current prime minister, and the opposition camp.
Michel Suleiman was president from 2008 until 2014. Lebanon has been without a president since May 2014.
Najib Mikati was prime minster between 2011 and 2013,
when he resigned.
Tammam Salam took over in March 2013 and was tasked with forming a new cabinet, which he did in February 2014.
Fragile power structure
There are currently 128 seats in parliament. There are 127 members of parliament as one died and has not been replaced.
This parliament has been in existence since 2009 and has extended its own mandate twice. The main political factions are: Hezbollah, Amal, FPM,
Marada, Syrian Social Nationalist Party, Tashnag, Baath Party, Arab Democratic Party, Future Movement, Lebanese Forces, Kata’eb, Progressive Socialist Party.
Lebanon is traditionally run by ‘zaims’ - political sectarian leaders - with each party representing the interests of a specific sect. Key actors dominate the parliament and cabinet, dictating government actions.
Effectively, nothing gets done if any of these key actors use their right to veto.
Following the end of the civil war and the implementation of the Ta’ef Accord,
Lebanon’s political system is divided as follows: the president must be a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim, and speaker of the
house a Shia Muslim.
March 8 Alliance
Includes: Free Patriotic Movement, Lebanese Democratic Party, Marada Movement, Tashnag, Solidarity Party, Amal, Hezbollah, the Syrian Socialist Nationalist party and the Ba’ath Party.
Includes: Progressive Socialist Party and independents.
March 14 Alliance
Includes Future Movement, Lebanese Forces, Kata’eb, Murr, Hunchakian Party, Islamic Group, Ramgavar Party, Democratic Left Movement, and the National Liberal Party.
Parties with the largest number of seats
A Sunni-majority party headed by
Saad Hariri, former prime minister and son of slain prime minister,
Rafik Hariri. He has been in
self-imposed exile in Saudi Arabia since his unity government collapsed in 2011. The Future Movement is closely allied with Saudi Arabia and the United States.
A Christian-majority party headed by former army general Michel Aoun, who returned to Lebanon in 2005 ending
a life in exile in France after he fled Lebanon at the end of the civil war. The FPM signed a memorandum of understanding with Hezbollah in February 2006, and have been close allies ever since.
A Shia-majority party headed by Speaker of the House Nabih Berri - the longest serving speaker, serving 23 years and counting. The party is
a mediator between the March 8 and March 14 camps, though it is an ally of the March 8 camp and an ally of Hezbollah and the Syrian regime.
Despite membership in the March 8 bloc, Amal Movement has significant differences with the FPM.
The Shia party headed by
Hassan Nasrallah. The party also has an armed wing that forced the withdrawal of the Israeli army from southern Lebanon, fought Israel in 2006, and is currently fighting with the Syrian regime. They're also closely allied with Iran.
A Druze party headed by Walid Jumblatt, who is notorious for his constant switching of political allegiances, and using this position
as kingmaker in past political deals.
Previously pro-Syrian regime, he has switched and is vocally pro-opposition, hitting headlines for voicing his support for groups like al-Nusra Front. Currently the PSP is allied with the Future Movement.
A Christian party headed by Samir Geagea - the only militia leader to be imprisoned for crimes committed during the civil war, serving 11 years in solitary confinement before being granted amnesty in 2005. The LF is a close ally of the Future Movement.
A Christian party headed by Sami Gemayel, who succeeded his father, Amin Gemayel.
The Kata’eb party is a family-dominated party, started by Sami’s grandfather, Pierre, in 1938. It is in the March 14 camp.
A majority Christian party headed
by Suleiman Franjieh. It is closely allied with Syria, Hezbollah and
Syrian Social Nationalist Party
A secular nationalist party, headed by Asaad Hardan, with core ideology based on notion of "Greater Syria", which includes Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Jordan, and Cyprus.
SSNP has branches in most of these countries and is allied with the Syrian regime and Hezbollah.
An Armenian party headed by
Hovig Mekhitarian. It has the largest Armenian support in the country and
is part of the March 8 political camp.
*The parliamentary blocs differ slightly from the political parties, as some may belong to one political party but to a different parliamentary bloc.
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