Lebanon’s political system and political developments until 1975
Lebanon was part of the Ottoman Empire until WWI, when it became a French mandate territory granted by the League of Nations. The French also controlled Syria and decided to enlarge Lebanon at the expense of Syria. To the coastal strip inhabited mostly by Sunni Muslim and Greek Orthodox Christians and mostly Maronite Christian and Druze Muslim Mount Lebanon and the Shouf they added the Bekaa Valley and the southern part inhabited by Shi’ites and Nothern Akkar with its Sunni and Alawi Muslims.
Lebanon is without a doubt the most religiously divided country in the Middle East. There are 11 different religious groups that are represented in parliament (10 until the civil war, the Alawite community was not represented before). The largest communities when it was founded were most likely Maronite Christian, Sunni Muslim, Shi’ite Muslim, Greek Orthodox and Druze respectively.
During WWII when France itself was occupied Lebanon became independent. The basis of the Lebanese state is the National Pact of 1943 which was a number of unwritten deals between the Maronite Christian president Bechara al-Khoury and his Sunni Muslim prime-minister Riad al-Solh that have never been officially published or defined.
The Pact stated (among other things):
- Lebanon must be independent and neutral: the Muslims would renounce a union with Syria and/or other Arab states, the Christians would renounce separatism and special ties with France or the West.
- The Muslims would accept the Christian identity of Lebanon, the Christians its Arab identity.
- The president would always be a Maronite, the prime-minister a Sunni, the parliament leader a Shi’ite, the army commander a Maronite, his chief of staff a Druze and the ratio of seats in parliament would be 5 Muslims to every 6 Christians.2 Positions in the civil service were distributed the same way.
The president was elected from Maronite candidates by parliament.