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Lebanon. Constitution and Government

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The Constitution of the Lebanon was promulgated on May 23, 1926, and was superseded on May 9, 1932. An amended Constitution was promulgated in 1934, but was revoked on Janu­ary 4, 1937, in favour of the 1926 Constitution, this Constitu­tion is still in force.

According to the Constitution, the Republic of the Lebanon is an independent and sovereign state. It has no state religion. Lebanon is a parliamentary democracy which implements a special system known as confessionalism. This system is intended to deter sectarian conflict and attempts to fairly represent the demographic distribution of the 18 recognized religious groups in government. High-ranking offices are reserved for members of specific religious groups. The President, for example, has to be Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim and the Speaker of the Parliament a Shi’a Muslim.

Lebanon's national legislature is the unicameral parliament of Lebanon. Its 128 seats are divided equally between Christians and Muslims, proportionately between the 18 different denominations and proportionately between its 26 regions. Prior to 1990, the ratio stood at 6:5 in favor of Christians; however, the Taif Accord, which put an end to the 1975–1990 civil war, adjusted the ratio to grant equal representation to followers of the two religions. The Parliament is elected for a four-year term by popular vote on the basis of sectarian proportional representation. The Chamber holds two sessions yearly. The normal term of the Chamber of Deputies is four years; general elections take pla­ce within sixty days before the end of this period. If the Chamber is dissolved before the end of its term, elections are held within three months of dissolution. Voting in the Chamber is public — by acclamation, or by standing and sitting. A quorum of two-thirds and a majority vote is required for constitutional issues. The only exceptions to this occur when the Chamber chooses the President of the Republic, or Secretaries to the Chamber, or when the President is accused of treason or of violating the Constitution. In such cases voting is secret, a two-thirds majority is needed.

The executive branch consists of the President, the head of state, and the Prime Minister, the head of government. The parliament elects the president for a non-renewable six-year term by a two-third majority. The President appoints the Prime Minister, following consultations with the parliament. The President and the Prime Minister form the Cabinet, which must also adhere to the sectarian distribution set out by confessionalism. The President and his ministers deal with the promulgation and execution of laws passed by the Chamber of Deputies. The Ministers are nominated by the President. They are not necessarily members of the Chamber of Deputies, al­though they are responsible to it and have access to its debates. The President can adjourn the Chamber for up to a month, and can dissolve it and force an election. Ministers can be made to resign by a vote of non-confidence.

Lebanon's judicial system is a mixture of Ottoman law, Napoleonic code, canon law and civil law. The Lebanese court system consists of three levels: courts of first instance, courts of appeal, and the court of cassationn. The Constituional Council rules on constitutionality of laws and electoral frauds. There also is a system of religious courts having jurisdiction over personal status matters within their own communities, with rules on matters such as marriage and inheritance.


All Lebanese are equal in the eyes of the law. Personal freedom and freedom of the Press are guaranteed and protected. The reli­gious communities are entitled to maintain their own schools, provided they conform to the general requirements relating to public instruction as laid down by the State. Every Lebanese ci­tizen who has completed his twenty-first year is an elector and qualifies for the franchise.



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