Will Lebanon Ever Be A Federal Country Like Australia?

Lebanon is a unitary multiparty republic with a parliamentary system of government. According to the 1989, parliamentary seats are divided equally between Christian and Muslim groups, thereby replacing an earlier difference that had favoured Christians.

Lebanon is divided into governorates administered by the governor, who represents the central government. The governorates are further divided into districts, each of which is presided over by a district chief, who, along with the governor, supervises the local government. Municipalities elect their own councils, which in turn elect mayors and vice-mayors. Villages and towns elect a headman and a council of elders, who serve on an honorary basis. Officers of local governments serve four-year terms.

The political system in Lebanon remains a blend of traditional features. Until 1975 the country appeared to support the liberal and democratic institutions, yet in effect it had hardly any of the political instruments of a civil polity. Its political parties, parliamentary blocs, and pressure groups were so closely identified with religious, communal, and personal loyalties that they often failed to serve the larger national purpose of the society.

Women, in addition, don’t really participate in government matters. The first time a woman was included in a cabinet was in 2005, and a cabinet in 2019 of only 4 women, but still pretty inclusive. In regards to the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, they do not have political rights and do not participate in the government.

Essentially, Lebanon’s perpetual crises are the results of a unitary structure that is too centralised and limited to accommodate the socio-political fears and concerns of all communities. In the upcoming and recent crisis, there is a growing realisation that the increase in territorial autonomy could give groups more confidence in their ability to preserve their uniqueness and political stability. 

The key in mixed, divided or composite societies like Lebanon, emerging from a recurring history of conflict and mistrust, is to nicely combine national and communal interests and, at one and the same time, avoid the tyranny of one community over the other. This is where a federal formula steps in as a middle-ground solution. By equally splitting and sharing powers and responsibilities, federalism will enable communities to ensure a strong representation through regional/provincial self-rule, while sincerely promoting unity and integration through national/central shared-rule.

A perfect example of a federal country is Australia. The Constitution of Australia establishes the Federal Government by providing for the Parliament, the Executive Government and the Judicature. The political theory recognises three powers of government: legislative power to make laws, the executive power to carry out and enforce the laws, and the judicial power to interpret laws and to judge whether they apply in singular cases. The principle of the separation of powers is that, in order to prevent oppressive government, the three powers of government should be held by separate parties, the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary, which can act and checks on each other. Australia is a federation of six states which, together with two self-governing territories, have their own constitutions, parliaments, governments and laws. Nevertheless, state and territory governments are also based on the same principle of parliamentary government.

Lebanon can also become a federal country like such in the future, but it needs to set clear its goals and matters of primary importance. If the Lebanon’s government is going to continue behaving like so – corrupted and unclear – new crisis and protests will appear and Lebanon will never be able to succeed as a federal state, where peace, transparency and support reign.

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