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Lebanon's Sunnis and the Civil War
Lebanon's Sunnis and the Civil War
Published by Watser?
Tablet The electoral system/Zu’ama

The electoral system

Lebanon has a district system of voting. Since 1960 there are 26 districts, differing in size and number of seats they have in parliament. The smallest district has 1 seat, the largest 8. Parliament had 99 seats in total, which was increased to 108 in 1989.7 Every seat is fixed to a certain religious sect. Beirut, for instance, is divided into 3 districts; in the third district 1 seat is reserved for a Sunni, 1 for a Shi’ite and one for a minority candidate (a Roman Catholic).8 Every voter has one vote for every seat in the district; however, every candidate only runs against his own sectarian group. This meant that every candidate represented his own sectarian community.


The Lebanese political system is characterised by a patron-client system, that is: a system of personal ties between a political leader called za’im (plural zu’ama) and the voter. The za’im provides services for the client in exchange for political support. These services can consist of getting them a telephone connection or a job, a promotion or protection from the police. The zu’ama were often members of families of landowners like the Karami family (Sunnis from Tripoli) or at least families that were always represented in parliament. Sometimes new leaders emerged where the son took over the political role from the father to create a new dynasty. This happened with the Sunni Ma’rouf Saad and his son Mustapha, for instance.

The za’im had several ways to maintain his clients:
  • He needed to be elected regularly so he could provide services for his clients from the state coffers. The za’im was most effective if he was a member of the government and the result of this was that the composition of the government was changed often so as many leaders as possible could profit.9
  • By providing services from other sources, such as own capital or connections with businessmen or charitable societies.
  • By intimidating voters.
  • By posing as the defender of the interests of his religious community. That meant the za’im represented the point of view of his community in parliament. This was a result of the electoral system.

It was a populist system: a za’im would respond to pressure from the street, but only to maintain his own position. He would manipulate the demands of his community if possible; if not then he supported them. In 1958, for instance, Saeb Salam and Abdallah al-Yafi responded to the emerging nasserism by joining the opposition against President Camille Chamoun while Sami al-Solh supported the president against the general mood of the Sunnis. As a result, his carreer as a za’im was finished (although it did not finish his family politically).10 This also explains the rise of radical parties who could not offer the individual voter anything materially but could champion the interests of the community.

The most important Sunni zu’ama of Beirut in the 1960s and ‘70s were Saeb Salam, Othman al-Dana, Abdallah al-Yafi and Rashid al-Solh. They fought each other in differing alliances. In Tripoli there was only one important za’im, Rashid Karami, who took over his father’s political role after his death and was a member of parliament from 1951 onward.11


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By Watser? on 12-27-2010, 12:10 AM
News Re: Lebanon's Sunnis and the Civil War

Here's a story from the Lebanese press about one former member of Tawhid who was murdered Saturday in the Palestinian camp Ain al Hilweh, near Sidon.
Located on the outskirts of the coastal city of Sidon, Ain al-Hilweh, like most other Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, does not fall under the control of the Lebanese government but under that of local Palestinian armed factions.

The camp saw normal activity Sunday morning, one day after the body of Ghandi Sahmarani, a member in the disbanded Jund al-Sham Islamist group was found.

Security sources said that Sahmarani, who is a Lebanese citizen wanted by Lebanese authorities, was found hand cuffed, leg cuffed and struck by a sharp device on the head. Sahmarani who hasn’t shown up for a long time, used to live in the Taamir neighborhood, which lies to the north of the camp, and which is considered a stronghold for Salafi Islamists. The area falls under the influence of Osbat al-Ansar, an Islamist group.

The fugitive was a member of Al-Tawhid al-Islami movement in the 1980’s, during which he participated in the fierce battles that broke out between the movement and the Syrian Army in Tripoli. He left Tripoli in 1987 and moved to Sidon where he joined a number of fundamentalist movements including Osbat al-Ansar and Jund al-Sham. After the disbandment of Jund al-Sham, Sahmarani joined Fatah al-Islam.

Sahmarani reportedly sheltered a number of Islamists who fled the northern Dinnieh district after taking part in the clashes that erupted between their comrades and the Lebanese Army in the district in 2000.

As a member of Jund al-Sham, the group fought the Lebanese Army several times. Armed clashes broke out between the two around Ain al-Hilweh in 2007, when the army was fighting Fatah al-Islam in the northern Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr al-Bared.
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By Watser? on 10-28-2014, 01:10 PM
Default Re: Lebanon's Sunnis and the Civil War

"The army has taken over Bab al-Tebbaneh," said the spokesman, adding that troops had captured 162 fighters since Friday.

The army urged other fighters still at large to turn themselves in.

The soldiers carried out house-to-house searches and made several weapons seizures.

A 72-year-old woman said she had never before been forced out of Bab al-Tebbaneh, "not even during the civil war. But this time, I had to flee my house, along with my five grandchildren. I am in charge of them, because their father is in jail", said Umm Mohammed Jaaburi. "The violence was unprecedented," she said.
Lebanon army back in control of Tripoli
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By Watser? on 10-30-2014, 02:36 PM
Default Re: Lebanon's Sunnis and the Civil War

No two people would disagree about the outcome of the most recent round of clashes in Tripoli. The army was able to defeat the gunmen. The outcome is unambiguous, at least in terms of appearances. The Lebanese army succeeded in driving the gunmen underground and removed all signs of their former existence. It set up checkpoints and carried out raids in areas that were forbidden to it in the past even if it cost the lives of 12 officers and soldiers, while there were no heavy casualties among the gunmen.
Jihadi groups in north Lebanon admit to defeat in battle against the army | Al Akhbar English
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