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The new image of the business elite in Lebanese politics

Lilit Harutyunyan

vol. IX(1)

Pages 4-24


Abstract: The resignation of Saad Hariri in January 2011 was

surrounded by frantic analysis. Did the backing, new Prime Minister

Najib Mikati received from Hezbollah, means that the Shia movement

had taken over the government? Could Mikati’s arguments of

“independence” be taken seriously?1 Much of the analyses focus on

one of the most interesting aspects of this changeover - how important

was the fact that both prime ministers (Hariri and Mikati) were

billionaire businessmen? The paper aims to explore the interplay of

new business elite’s economic interests with the politics of

confessionism and foreign alliances. What explains the rise of new

businessmen and variations in their relative success as politicians and

investors in Lebanon? This question will be measured along three

dimensions: success in reaching political office; in gaining control of

institutions to further their economic agenda; and in gathering a

popular following. In order to address these three questions, the

careers of four new contractors - Rafik and Saad Hariri, Najib Mikti

and Issam Fares, will be examined. The paper based on historicalcomparative

and analytical methods of research. The role of above

mentioned four contractors is observed with the evaluation approach

in the context of confessional, social-economic and political situation

of Lebanon. The research methodology also incorporates the issues of

a class analysis with the refinement of the sociology of the business

elite in Lebanese politics.

Keywords: Lebanon, confessional political system, businessmenpoliticians,

Hariri, Hezbollah, clientelism, zuama, politics, Sunni, Shia

Lilit Harutyunyan
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