Lebanon | Freedom House

Freedom in the World

Freedom in the World 2017



Freedom Status: 
Partly Free

Freedom in the World Scores

(1=Most Free, 7=Least Free)

Quick Facts

Press Freedom Status: 
Partly Free
Net Freedom Status: 
Partly Free

Lebanon’s troubled political system ensures representation for its many sectarian communities, but suppresses competition within each community and impedes the rise of cross-sectarian or secularist parties. Parliamentary elections have been repeatedly postponed amid partisan gridlock and security threats linked to the war in neighboring Syria. Residents enjoy some civil liberties and media pluralism, but the rule of law is undermined by political interference and partisan militias, and the country has struggled to cope with an influx of Syrian and other refugees who make up more than a quarter of its population.


Key Developments: 
  • In October, the National Assembly elected Michel Aoun as president, ending a two-year vacancy.
  • Aoun asked former prime minister Saad Hariri to lead a new unity cabinet, which was approved by the National Assembly in late December.
  • Municipal elections were held in May for the first time in six years, though long-overdue parliamentary elections were not expected until 2017 at the earliest.
Executive Summary: 

Lebanon made some progress toward ending its political dysfunction in 2016. Local elections in more than a thousand municipalities were held in May, in some cases featuring vigorous competition. The new, civil society–based list Beirut Madinati (Beirut My City) won 40 percent of the vote in the capital, campaigning on a platform of practical urban governance and transparency rather than traditional factional loyalties.

In October, the National Assembly’s main parties and movements reached a deal to elect Michel Aoun, a longtime political and military leader from the Maronite Christian community, as president, ending a two-year vacancy. Aoun then named Saad Hariri, a Sunni Muslim political leader, to serve as prime minister, and his 30-member cabinet was approved by the National Assembly in late December. The cabinet included all major factions except the Kataeb Party, a Christian group also known as the Phalangist party, which rejected the position it was offered. The cabinet also featured new posts responsible for women’s affairs, refugee affairs, and combating corruption, reflecting key challenges facing the country. However, the appointment of a man to the women’s affairs post was met with public derision.

Despite the successful municipal voting and the progress in the executive branch, it remained unclear whether parliamentary elections would be held as planned by mid-2017, when the current legislature’s mandate—already extended repeatedly since its elected term ended in 2013—was due to expire.

Meanwhile, among other ongoing governance problems, a garbage crisis stemming from the closure of Beirut’s main landfill in 2015 continued without a sustainable solution, and the rule of law was threatened by terrorist violence and arbitrary restrictions—including arrests and curfews—on Syrian refugees.

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