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Why is it essential for Lebanon to adopt a Federal Regime?

“We offer our unqualified support for the National Accord of 1943 but we oppose the 1943 structural formula, which defined the politics of Lebanon.

We support the National Accord because it established the framework for Christian-Muslim coexistence in a free, sovereign and independent Lebanon. This form of existence must be preserved and firmly established. We, due to our Christian nature, our candid and sincere faith, and consultative approach (encouraged by our faith), insist on maintaining this coexistence and in fact, reinforcing, expanding and defending it. We also pledge to remove all obstacles that may hinder its continuation.


We oppose the structural formula, that is the executive constitutional-legal (legislative)- political form of the Accord. This aspect must be reconsidered since it has failed abysmally to address fulfill the objectives of the National Accord in a true and accurate manner. It has in fact a dangerous threat to its very foundations.”



Antoine Najem

Numerous are the proposals and projects – solutions that have been proposed in Lebanon in an attempt to build the state of Lebanon and bring to an end its internal strife.


Antoine Najem, one of Lebanon's foremost intellectuals and authorities on the composition of Lebanon's society and who proposed a project – solution (formula) along with a team of researchers are representative of a large and wide section of Lebanese who considered that federalism is a logical solution to the internal strife gripping Lebanon.


In this article we will present briefly why federalism forms the basis of a logical and achievable solution according to the opinion of Antoine Najem and his fellow intellectuals. The necessity for such a solution or formula has developed as a result of the historical, social and political experiences in Lebanon.


As a fundamental starting point Antoine Najem considers that an object, rational and direct examination and understanding of the nature of Lebanon's regime rather than an ideological comparison is necessary. Such as process will best highlight the real nature of the political community and hence, forms the basis for the essential and appropriate foundations that will allow for the development of the Regime through its internal dynamism and interaction


Antoine Najem begins by focusing on the reality of the Lebanese experience and examines the solutions or formulas adopted in the past and he regards these formulas, beginning with the princedoms through the structural formula of 1943 and including the Ottoman ERA 'Motasarafiyeh', as having failed to eliminate the enduring internal problems because, in affect, these formulas ignored these fundamental problems and the result of such blunders were violent explosions leading to bloodbaths and wars and whose consequences proved to be catastrophic, extinguishing the coexistence between the various religious communities and wrecking Lebanon's single and unified administration and its existence and composition. In fact one of the basic deficiencies in the political solutions offered was disregard for the distinct features and privileges of each of the communities within Lebanon when each of these communities continues to insist on maintaining and preserving their distinctive characteristics and privileges be their ideological, political, institutional and administrative and this also in light of the fact that each community also insisted on emphasising and highlighting these features at every opportunity. Therefore, this ideological superficial façade met with its ultimate destiny, crumbling because it attempting to build a centralised system of government based upon the myth that a unified single culture society exist in Lebanon.


Lebanon today is faced with more than one possible alternative for solving its internal problems:


1. Partitioning which will see community seek independence from the other in a separate political Regime and geographic existence.

2. Or the return of the spirit of 1943 structural formula which means returning to the original starting point of the problem and hence, a repetition of the internal strife and violence.

3. Or the creation of a Federal Regime, an option which the Lebanese have not yet experimented with genuinely despite the fact that several indictors within the real nature of Lebanon's society converge in that direction.


With these options before us and the repetition cycle of violence and failed formulas and solutions indicted, it appears that federalism is the best available option open to us considering that the other options include partitioning , domination by one group over another and the perilous and violence ridden centralised Regime.


Federalism, even though it might not bring to a conclusion the problems associated with the composition of the administration and the differences between then religious communities, it does however address the urgent needs of the existing problem. And this is basically a recogition officially and institutionally of the presence of two Lebanese groups, each with their unique and distinctive characteristics and values. This recognition must also extend to allow these groups to freely organise and arrange their presence and to develop it in an atmosphere free or devoid of external interference. The fulfillment of such terms will contribute positively and allow for the relaxation of the relationship between the religious communities because it will remove from the network of this relationship the factor of political tension and suspicious which is caused initially by the possibility of one group having the opportunity to interfere and intervene in the autonomous affairs of the other and visa versa. Also removal will be the real danger or potential danger facing the existence of all members of each community, be this danger genuine or mythical that a community feels threatens it identity or it uniqueness.


On the institutional front federalism presents a logical response to the reality of the historical, social and ideological aspects of the religious communities, thus ending the prevailing divide in Lebanon between society and state.


Federalism offers the better alternative and the more stable of the solution for the establishment of ties and a workable equation between the religious communities and the state. The existing relationship depends on relies upon an ideological format racked by problems and conflict where each religious community projects an impression of elitism and a superiority complex over the other religious communities, and such a step up leads to repeated cases of confrontation as well as to a format where domination and assimilation are a concern and each community feels it is imperative for it to defend itself against domination and or assimilation, hence, the ensuring outcome is that the state becomes a stage for continuous conflict.


In relation to this area of concern, federalism reduces friction and the level of confrontation relieving the state to a large extent from these negative factors by eliminating a number of the elements that trigger conflict and explosive situations within it and upon it.


Federalism presents a logical redress to the 1943 formula beginning with the identification of the attributes associated with the real nature of society. In other words, federalism removes the contradictions existing between the unifying 1943 National Accord and the Constitutional and political Regime of the 1943 State, this by returning the political and administrative institutions of their rightful place by taking into consideration the real nature of society.


By assuming such a line of thought additional experiences of suffering can be avoided and appalling mistakes committed in the approaches adopted will not be repeated. In fact, the experiences of the existing situation present the strongest justification and the most important reason in the search for a new or alternative political regime.


Then, the problem associated with planning a new political regime is not one of a technical rewriting of the Constitution as occurred with the Taif Agreement and others of a similar nature. The problem is, however, related to the autonomous existence of each of the Christian and Moslem communities and their desire and will to establish a joint existence with the other and to develop this existence mutually. From here then, a successful political regime is one which is founded upon a will which unites the citizens and upon institutions that will organise this existence without denying the religious communities their autonomous existence.


And in regards to the factors that justify and assist in the creation of a federal regime in Lebanon, Antoine Najem considers that the implementation of federalism in Lebanon is conditional upon the availability of some essential factors that justify the establishment of a federal system and assist in its formation.


There is firstly the dual composition of the Lebanese Society i.e the presence of two groups unique and distinctive in their identities, cultures, history, regimes and customs.


There is also the matter of each group populating various geographic locations or enclaves which are limited in number, and to a certain extent, the similarity between the identity of the population in each geographic pocket and the identity of the land is exact.


There also exists common interests and unbending and non-compromisable convictions between the two groups and these form the essential foundation and pre-condition for establishing the state and political regime.


The most important of these interests – convictions: the unanimous desire of the groups to establish the state especially in regards to t he mutual interests they hold in the relationship of coexistence and their agreement upon the notion of organising this existence politically as well as the agreement by both groups to acknowledge the platform of privileges, equality and freedom and its relevance to each group.


There are specific factors , undoubtedly, that must be sufficiently present on the organisational front such as founding principles which are considered vital in order for this Regime to be realised and the most important are:


1. The principle of sovereign autonomy for each group i.e each group must have the authority to independently self-determine its own affairs through a self governing body that organises its own authorities and allocates responsibilities and oversees the administration of its group or community.

2. The principle of the structured sovereignty of the State i.e each group has the benefit of an authority that exercises sovereignty when dealing with a political decision of the federal State, and if this decision is opposed by the group then it can not be implemented and likewise for a decision to be implemented, the participation of the group in the decision making is absolutely essential as a condition for the decision to be carried.

3. Duplication of the infrastructures of the institutions of the State including the regional, the legislative, executive, judicial and federal infrastructure.

4. The structured infrastructure of the federal institutions is a reflection of the principle of structured sovereignty where the group or community is represented by regarding it as a single political entity within the legislative, executive and federal institution.

5. A geographic division on the basis of areas dominated or inhabitant predominantly by a particular religious group, the organisational of the regional authorities is achieved according to the geographic basis of these areas.


The federal regime must take into considerations most of the factors and conditions. Essential for the founding of federal system from around the world with special attention to be paid to some of the unique and distinctive characteristic of the Lebanese reality.




Of these distinctive and unique characteristics, the concerns of the Religious Community and its needs in relation to the issues of existence, culture, education, self-identify, personal status, financial needs, growth and development. These are concerns that quite often prevail over the demands required for co-existence and extent beyond the boundaries of the political regime. Also of concern the geographic mingling between the religious communities within a number of areas in Lebanon which resulted originally from Christian migration to all parts of Lebanon their settlements in those geographic locations and subsequent mixing with the Moslem- Sunnis, Shittes, drupe-populations, the consequences of such migration and intermingling are difficulties and challenges associated with dividing the land geographically according to concentrations of particular communities and organizing the institutions and guarantees that protect the right of the individual and group.


And on the obstacles that obstruct the founding of a federal regime in Lebanon, Antoine Najem says:


The federal regime in Lebanon, from an objective point of view, is the better of the systems available and provides a solution to the existing confrontationalist reality, however, implementing this regime will be resisted by obstacles and faces stifling opposition. It is possible to draw the boundaries of these difficulties and challenges in the following manner:


1- The absence of a unanimous endorsement of this form of regime i.e. those Christians in favor of the 1943 structural formula are still bargaining on the traditional understanding of co-existence and its constitutional and political in terpretation within a single unified centralized state. The taif accord was translated into constitutional changes and endorsed officially by the President of the republic on 21 September 1990. And with the Islamic community, the focus of their ideology is based upon the concept of the single nature of Lebanese society. This concept is expressed politically by the concept of the centralized state that is built upon the notion of the single nature of the land, the people, and the institutions. For this reason they view the proposal of the federal regime as being a proposal for the partitioning and dismemberment of society and state in Lebanon. Arab thought in general is wary of and does not encourage the acceptance of thelogic of pluralism, which, in essence, will obliterate the accepted notion of a single natured and nationalistic Arab society from its very roots. As a result of this logic Arabs continue to confront the problem of assimilating minorities within by resorting to military means as an accepted method for resolving these issues or matters.


2- The current and continuous disputes existing within inter-community relationships with a rose from deeply rooted conflict around three fundamental matters of contention and these actually form the basis of the matters of common interest and would fall under the jurisdiction of the federal authorities, and it is such matters that require they be solved by all religious communities participating in the regime through a unanimous agreement.


The ' identity ' of Lebanon still provides the central point of contention and dispute, despite the fact that in accordance with the taif accord, the constitution was altered to incorporate the view that Lebanon is Arab in both its membership and identify. This matter is centered around a fundamental subject: Will Lebanon follow the direction desired by the Moslems and become a permanent and inseparable member of the Arab world or will Lebanon retain a special and unique existence that is distinctive from its surrounds as how the Christians would like to see Lebanon? Branching from this dispute are other disputes, several in number and also very basic.


The subject of Lebanon's foreign relationships and ties is linked fundamentally to the problem of determining its identity. This subject assumes a specially contentious issue because of the presence of Israel in a land considered by the Islamic Arabs world as being Arab and Islamic land and, because this presence also places upon Lebanon the burden of assuming a direct and clear stance on the issue. The Lebanese themselves are divided over the issue of hostility and opposition to the Israeli existence and or whether a truce with Israel should be considered or even if relations with Israel should be established. Another problem issue is centered around defining the type of relationship to be established between the Lebanese state and the Islamic Arabs world. The Moslems of Lebanon are pushing for substantial and unrestricted ties, which will gradually lead to Lebanon being absorbed into a constitutionally comprehensive single unified Arab entity. The Christians, however, are cautious of committing to such a relationship, which goes beyond establishing normal relations with other states on the basis of sovereignty, freedom, and independence, as stated in the Arab league accord.


Disagreement also exists over the issue of national defense from the point of view of determining defense policies and deciding upon the fighting doctrine of the army. Before deciding upon or determining the guidelines of such an issue the matter of Lebanon's foreign relations must be settled especially the relations with the neighborly regional powers. But it appears that this matter is far from being settled in the near future at least, especially in the shadow of the existing internal division, and regional tensions and confrontation on Lebanese Territory.


3- One must recognize the connection or link between the internal situation in Lebanon and the regional and international political developments and the effects of this connection upon this internal situation in terms of stability or fragility in relations to the balance of power, or the effects of this link on either entrenching and expanding the conflicts and disputes or promoting the search for constitutional solutions formulas and structures. This connection (with the outside) of today has been a common factor ever since the rule of prince Bashir 2, at least.


This regional tension reflected upon the internal situation in Lebanon and impacted negatively and, hence, all attempts at working out political and constitutional solutions failed abysmally in Lebanon beginning with the proposed constitutional document drafted in 1976 to the taif accord in 1989 including all the proposals and projects that promised solutions between these two dates.


All these matters confirm to us that in order for any political regime to succeed in Lebanon-whatever form it takes-two factors need to be available or accessible. The first factor necessary is one of an internal nature communities, one which is frank, direct, clear and free in an in an atmosphere devoid of any pressure and intimidation and the second factor, foreign, is conditional upon limiting the reflection of the effects of foreign conflicts upon Lebanon and limiting foreign intervention and its effects upon the balance of power domestically and in fact, prevent its influence altogether upon the domestic situation if possible.


Federalism, as we have observed, can fulfil this task and can to a large extent, contributes to solving the internal facet of strife and conflict between the religious communities. Awaiting a satisfactory solution is the external aspects i.e. the limiting or restricting of foreign intervention in Lebanon's internal affairs. In this field of concern, the possibility of isolating the external factor and eliminating its effect upon the interior is far from achievable at this point of time especially in the shadow of the current foreign political circumstances and the approaches adopted by this foreign factor. The reason for the existence of this influencing and interfering foreign factor is Lebanon's common borders with Israel and Syria and their claims to ritual interest including strategize and political extensions to their concerns in the Lebanese interior, and the effective involvement of both these states in the international political scene. Also another influencing reason is the state of strife and conflict between the Lebanese religious communities, which places at the forefront of importance in the relationship between these communities the factor of military and political force. These religious communities consider that their alliances with external forces form the basis of very important element in determining the extent and influence of this force (military and political), and its effectiveness. This fact invites foreign interference and renders it vital to the interest of the religious communities who readily this request this intervention on their behalf in their internal conflicts.


For this reason the absolute necessity for a regional international agreement arises. This will guarantee Lebanon's independence and internationally recognized borders as well as its internal framework in all its human elements through a Federal Regime. Lebanon must be allowed to assume a permanent Internationally neutral role. This neutrality, however, must be initially accepted internally.


Neutrality will effectually disengage Lebanon from the existing circle of strategically influenced hostilities and conflicts in the Middle East. This increases the hope of establishing a stable regime based upon a stabilized balance of power and the basis of such a concept is dependent upon the various factions accepting the fact they cannot or are incapable of destabilizing and subverting such a regime, hence, they will be spared the ramifications of the negative political impact upon any faction that may consider moving in this direction.


It is true that neutrality will not eliminate the spirit of disagreement and conflict present between the Lebanese factions, however it will reduce the visible effects of this predicament to a minimum and such disputes will be restricted to the political and the ideological level within the bounds of the media. This will allow for an extended and lengthy cessation to the successive rounds of violence dogging Lebanon.



An internationally neutral Lebanon does not necessarily mean that the Lebanese religious communities have to abandon their basis conviction and beliefs, and their political ideologies. In fact neutrality is only intended to compel communities into forsaking any intentions they have of imposing their convictions and beliefs upon the other, and to render them incapable of carrying out such intentions.


So, the federal regime and neutrality are two convergent faces and in union provide the formula and the solution to the Lebanese problem. But, the appropriate internal as well as external circumstances are essential for the success of any formula. A federal regime reduces friction between the religious communities at the constitutional level will, however, remain without the required and desired results unless it is accompanied by measures to prevent these frictions on the ground in real life situation. These preventative measures have an internal psychological facet represented by the need for all the factions to be convinced that in the event of violent confrontation they will not be able to gain any advantage politically or otherwise, if indeed they attempt to take advantage of a negative situation. The same psychological implications are mirrored upon the external front where foreign forces or elements refrain from promoting internal conflict, i.e. cease investing their resources for the purpose of instigating and maintaining internal divisions that only serve their purposes, and to stop utilizing these resources for increasing the capabilities of the internal factions and giving them false hopes which only encourages them to depart from the balance existing between them.


Finally, such a document requires a careful and concentrated examination. An objective approach is compulsory not a subjective one based upon past judgements and mythical ideological attitudes. Antoine Najem sums up the feeling of those who promote this document in his statement: " we are federalists because we believe in freedom with all its ramifications and significance.


Because we support a system which identifies with the truest form of democracy and its features and demands development and growth, equality, justice, co-existence in a pluralist and diverse society. Only because we value humanity."



Lebnaan Lebnaane - Lebanon is Lebanese - Le Liban est Libanais - لبنان لبناني
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