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Shrinking Democracy in Lebanon: How a Securitised State of Emergency Is Threatening Democratic Norms

A Democracy Reporting International Brief

By Karim El Mufti

December 2020

Lebanon is experiencing the most crushing challenges in its 100 years of existence. In the wake of the covid-19 pandemic and the 4 August Beirut explosion, national authorities have resorted to highly controversial martial law regulations in the form of the General Mobilisation Plan (GMP) and declaring a State of Emergency (SoE). Such measures are unprecedented despite regularly experiencing exceptional circumstances, triggered by both internal and external factors.

Worldwide emergency measures to counter covid-19 have disrupted the foundations of democratic principles and the rule of law, during a time when democratic practices were already at risk in many countries. As feared by thinker Amartya Sen, “the world does face today a pandemic of authoritarianism, as well as a pandemic of disease, which debilitates human life in distinct but interrelated ways”.[1]

SoE legislation, as framed and implemented in Lebanon, is threatening democratic principles and the rule of law. It has affected the basic rights of citizens and the aspirations of the protestors who took to the streets in Lebanon in October 2019, demanding dignity, good governance, and social justice from their government. To protect these rights, the political factions in power need to abandon the securitisation approach in addressing people’s well-being in the context of the covid-19 pandemic and abide by national and international law. Decision-makers should correct this course of action and engage in crucial reforms to strengthen the legislative branch and the independence of the judiciary to play their crucial role in ensuring checks and balances against the emergency responses. At the same time they need to overturn corruption and unconstitutional practices. 

Full Brief available here

[1] Amartya Sen, A Pandemic of Authoritarianism, 18 October 2020, available on

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