Lebanon is a unitary multiparty republic with a parliamentary system of government. Its constitution, promulgated in 1926 during the French mandate and modified by several subsequent amendments, provides for a unicameral Chamber of Deputies elected (for a term of four years as per the electoral law) by universal suffrage of citizens aged 21 and above.
The political system in Lebanon is referred to as a consociational democracy, in which political representation is based on citizens‘ sectarian identity. The National Pact of 1943 established an unwritten power-sharing formula between Christians and Muslims. However, Lebanon remained vulnerable to both international crises and local inequalities. The Arab-Israeli conflicts led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees to Lebanon, including armed militant groups. And the centralized power among a handful of political families created growing disparities among regions. These were two of the many factors that contributed to the eruption of a civil war on April 14, 1975, which did not end until October 13, 1990. The war saw a weakening of state institutions, the emergence of a myriad of sectarian militias, the invasion of Lebanese regions by the Syrian Army (in 1976) and the Israeli Army (in 1978). The peace agreement reached in the Saudi city of Taif in 1989 essentially secured a return to the concept of power-sharing on a sectarian basis, in which parliamentary seats are apportioned equally between Christian and Muslim sects, thereby replacing an earlier ratio that had favored Christians. This sectarian distribution is also to be observed in appointments to public office.
The head of state is the president, who is elected by the Parliament for a term of six years. By an unwritten convention the president must be a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim, and the Speaker of Parliament a Shia Muslim. The president, in consultation with the Members of Parliament appoints the Prime Minister, with whom he forms the Council of Ministers. The latter, which holds the executive power, requires a vote of confidence from the Parliament.
The development of post-war Lebanon remained closely linked to its neighbors, Israel and Syria. Israel maintained military occupation in southern Lebanon, where it engaged in a war of attrition with Hezbollah until the Israeli troops withdrew in 2000. But hostility between Israel and Hezbollah, which maintained its armed capacities, flared in July 2006, during a 34-day war.
Meanwhile, Syria continued to exercise an extensive influence in Lebanon, asserted by the presence of more than 30,000 soldiers on Lebanese territory. Its intelligence apparatus intervened in political life to install a political class loyal to the regime in Damascus. During this period, a massive reconstruction process was launched, under the leadership of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. However, this process was marred with corruption and imbalanced budgets, and growing public debt. Tensions regarding the Syrian hegemony in Lebanon and realignment of political forces that were previously supporting the Syrian presence towards the anti-Syrian opposition parties culminated after the assassination on February 14, 2005, of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, between the anti-Syrian, pro-West March 14 alliance, and the Hezbollah-led, pro-Syrian March 8 alliance. Although this division grew further with then eruption of the Syrian conflict, Lebanese political parties remained committed to the idea of forming national unity coalition governments gathering all parties represented in Parliament. While this cemented the stability, it made the decision-making process slower, leading to long periods of presidential (November 2007-May 2008; May 2014-October 2016) and government vacuum (December 2010-June 2011; March 2013-February 2014; and since June 2018).
The Lebanese government has historically favored a pro-market laissez-faire economic policy, maintaining minimal ownership of companies. In the media sector, the Lebanese State owns Télé Liban, Radio Liban, and the National News Agency.