Lebanese President Michel Aoun has called for the formation of a "secular state" in an effort to rescue the country from confessionalism. Confessionalism refers to a system of government that is a legally recognized mix of religion and politics.

"There is a need to develop, modify, and change the system...call it the way you like; but most certainly, Lebanon needs a new conception in running its affairs, based on citizenry and on the secularism of the state," Xinhua news agency quoted Aoun as saying in a televised speech on Sunday.

Governance Under the National Pact

Lebanese President Michel Aoun
Lebanese President Michel Aoun Wikimedia Commons

Lebanon is governed under the National Pact, which is an unwritten agreement that laid the foundation of the country as a multiconfessional state between the Shia Muslim, Sunni Muslim, and Maronite Christian leaderships. According to this pact, the President should always be a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim and the Parliament Speaker a Shia Muslim.

Aoun said that Lebanon and its people deserve, after a long-suffering, a state where merit is the criterion, and law is the guarantor of the rights of all equally, and where the fundamental belonging is to the nation and not to the leaders of the confessions.

Disagreement Over Reforms

"I believe that only the secular state is capable of protecting and preserving pluralism and turning it into a real unity, I call for the proclamation of Lebanon as a secular state," he said. Lebanese authorities have been incapable, over the past few years, to agree on proper reforms to be implemented in the interest of the country.

This was due to the division of power in a system that distributes roles and positions based on sects. This prompted the beginning of a nationwide protest on October 17, 2019 to demand for a change in the system and the whole ruling class.