Lebanon's electoral system: Is reform possible?

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This article critically examines the characterisation of Lebanon as a consociational democracy. Through an analysis of the maintenance of Lebanon’s confessional political system it argues that the model of consociational governance that is often applied to understand the Lebanese politics, where religious identity is enshrined as political identity, is inappropriate. Instead, manipulation by confessional elites of successive electoral law reform initiatives serves to highlight how Lebanon represents a closed political system rather than a consociational “semi-democracy”. To explore this, the article will reprise of the key tenets of consociational governance before moving to an examination of the history of electoral law reform in Lebanon with an emphasis on the 1943, 1960, 1989, and 2008 reforms and their impacts on electoral system design and modes of political participation. Rather than a critique of the merits of consociationalism as a model for managing divided societies, this analysis will highlight how power sharing in Lebanon sustains a closed political system that actively resists efforts at reform designed to enhance popular participation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-83
Number of pages13
JournalMiddle East Policy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2016


  • Lebanon
  • Electoral Law Reform
  • Consociationalism

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