The state of the art literature on accountability and representativeness contends that consociationalism weakens accountability but strengthens representativeness. This study assesses accountability and representativeness in consociations by studying the case of Lebanon. Lebanon is a typical case of a plural society and a consociation. The analysis is structured around institutional mechanisms to ensure accountability and representativeness, although in different ways and forms. These are elections, political parties, parliamentary opposition, and executive power sharing.
The study makes three main arguments. First, it concurs that consociational institutions in Lebanon have lead to weak accountability. The institutional structure of Lebanon’s executive power has limited Parliament’s monitoring and control of the executive. Mutual veto, intended to protect minorities, has lead to conflict and stalemate in Lebanese state institutions. The electoral system has resulted in an absence of competition through cross-ideological, short term, and tactical alliances. Second, the thesis modifies the argument that consociational systems lead to representativeness. Representation of the sects, descriptive representativeness, has partly been guaranteed in the post-war period, albeit overrepresentation of minorities deviates from proportionality. The substantive representativeness of political elites, however, is substantially reduced. Political elites are substantively representative if they mirror voters’ opinions. The Christian community, especially, has felt excluded and unrepresented in the post-war period. Inability to address economic and social disparities and widespread corruption further undermine substantive representativeness. Third, on this basis the thesis argues that Lebanon predominantly has been what O’Leary (2003, 2005) terms an undemocratic consociation in the post-war period. According to O’Leary, political elites’ accountability and representativeness distinguish democratic and undemocratic consociations.