Relationship Between Consociationalism and State Corruption in Lebanon.

Relationship Between Consociationalism and State Corruption in Lebanon.

Lebanese blame the post-war power sharing political system for state corruption. The “network of old boys” used cronyism and favouritism to consolidate their power, which wasn’t in the interest of its people. As a consequence, Lebanon is being looked at by the international community as one of the most corrupt countries. This article is a breakdown of the Paper by Gulsen Devere on the relationship consociationalism and state corruption in Lebanon.

Consociationalism as a conflict management tool.

Consociationalism is a form of democracy which seeks to regulate the sharing of power in a state that comprises diverse societies (distinct ethnic, religious, political, national or linguistic groups), by allocating these groups collective rights. The executive-power sharing is mainly characterized by proportional representation, veto rights and segmental autonomy for minority groups.

Power sharing and inclusion is the tool used globally to ensure peace. However, power sharing as a political system has its drawbacks.

Before the Civil War

Lebanon being one of most diverse societies used the same power sharing political system even before the civil war.Lijphart one for the leading authority on consociationalism considered Lebanon as a success story of consociationalism (until the civil war erupted in 1975).

The perception by the international media was that the civil war resulted from hatred between Christians and Muslims or between the left and the right wing. Some claim it was because of Palestinian/Syrian interference.

State Corruption in Lebanon
Image source – The debris in the Martyrs' Square in the Lebanese capital Beirut in 1982. Wikipedia

Expert Opinion on Power Sharing or Consociationalism.

Barbara Geddes argues that political institutions will determine the greed of the ruling elite. Ultimately, power sharing will not only influence the political power but also the economic power of the different ethnic or sectarian leaders and their attitude towards the economic resources of the state (especially given that the state is the main distributor of national wealth). Each ethnic or sectarian group will try to survive by exploiting this wealth of the post-war state. As a result, it is important not only to consider political institutions but also the essentiality of the role that economic institutions embody during a post-war period of institution-building.

Reinoud Leenders author of Spoils of Truce: Corruption and State-Building in Postwar Lebanon and former International Crisis Group’s Middle East analyst says that the inclusive political system “caused networks rather than bureaucratically organised institutions to govern distributional issues.” In other words, the inclusive political system accommodates the ethnic leaders acting in contradiction with the country’s social, political and economic needs. These networks of corruption in Lebanon can be viewed as a substitute for functioning, strong bureaucratic institutions.

Ian Spears, Associate Professor of Political Science (Conflict and Conflict Resolution) is quite pessimistic about the intentions of the elites, given that they will favour their own groups in the post-war period, as they also did during the civil war.

Michael W. Doyle author of “Liberalism and World Politics argues that power sharing approach will enable institutional development, while in the long run, decreasing the chances of the country relapsing into civil war. It is this belief that lies behind the inclusive institutional mechanism of power sharing.

The peace agreement was signed in Ta’if, Saudi Arabia in 1989.

While engineering the country’s future at the end of the 15-year-old civil war, there was optimism for a corruption free state. Both policy makers and academics agreed on several institution mechanisms, such as an all-inclusive grand coalition and veto rights. The principle of proportionality was applied to all sectors of the state system. Consociationalism was not only applied to the political and economic fields but also social, juridical and national security levels.

State Corruption in Lebanon
The Taif Agreement – 1989 – Image Source –

The Outcome – State Corruption

During the sectarian conflicts, the warlords represented their own groups. As a part of the peace-building and stability process, these warlords were incorporated in the “Government of National Unity”. As a part of grand coalitions, they formed political blocks along sectarian lines. Every sectarian group used their veto rights in their own favour, and not in the country’s interest. These veto rights caused gridlocks in parliament important reforms that could fight state corruption could not be voted in. Ultimately, strong political interference in the administration, the lack of transparent and modern reforms made these elites unaccountable.


The Paper by Gulsen Devere on Consociationalism and State Corruption in Lebanon is a comprehensive analysis on what went wrong in post-war Lebanon. However, it has not delved into any alternative political system. Knowing our history well will help us make a better decisions, I hope it informs young Lebanese on our contemporary political history, and empowers them to question the powerful elites and ask for a corruption free state.

About the author

Financial advisor to UHNWI, private entities, family offices, and companies. Certified Anti-Corruption Manager from The American Anti-Corruption Institute

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