As Lebanon slipped into a violent civil war, sectarian taïfas became more powerful while the opportunity for establishing a state faded. The dynamics of this conflict were not initially sectarian, but it brought to the forefront new warlords, and armed militias further institutionalized sectarian taïfas. As the civil war ended through a multinational settlement these warlords transitioned into civilian sectarian taïfa leaders with political roles. From then on, they competed for authority and influence over the battered remains of the state, eventually leading to total collapse. Sectarian taïfa authority ebbs and flows and is not eternal. It tends to grow as the state vanishes and to shrink with the rise of a powerful state.

In Lebanon as in other former Ottoman ruled regions, sectarian taïfas are religious sectarian communities that are more than mere groups of individuals who share common beliefs. Sectarian taïfas are exclusive entities that develop in stateless regions or rise from the ashes of a failed state to serve a specific purpose: The protection of their members from external and existential dangers. Sectarian taïfas are pseudo-parties devoid of genuine internal political structures or systems. They typically designate a leader to run internal affairs and manage external political relations. Those leaders often build a cult of personality as defenders of the group’s interests from other sectarian taïfas. At the same time, they try to assert their dominance over other leaders within the same sectarian taïfa. Elections in Lebanon are effectively a rubber stamping process for sectarian taïfa leaders to size each other up and reassert their dominance.

When we state the fall of the power system, we mean that it’s financial and economical machinery has broken down. The authority is no longer able to manage the relationships that legitimated it, from the relationship between the tenant and the owner, the depositor and the banks, fuel distributors and filling stations, to the relationships within the clientelist network. The elements needed to manage all these relationships have been exhausted. The future of these relationships will depend on the basis laid during the post-crises period.

The fall of the power system spontaneously brings about a transitional period. A transition from the unsustainable to a newborn that cannot yet be imagined by society. Although this period is an exceptional opportunity for change, it is highly hazardous. Because the transition can be for better or for worse, and what will prevail during this period will establish a different power system and new societal relationships.

The crisis is not the end of the world; it is rather an exceptional opportunity. The confrontation is deeply political. To engage in politics is to target a goal in times of helplessness, confusion, and loss. As for the greatest danger, it is the persistence of this transitional period, which dissipates the resources of society and fragments it.

This phenomenon is generally caused by crises or wars, and sometimes even by decisions which are not unanimous within the authority. For example, the military defeats of certain states during the Second World War that caused the fall of the existing ideologies. The transition of the economies of the countries of the former Soviet bloc into market economies. Natural disasters such as the earthquake of November 1, 1755, in Lisbon and its political, scientific, and philosophical implications. Bismarck’s authoritarianism that marked radical changes within the Prussian regime.

As for Lebanon, the violence and the internal struggle of the civil war provoked both confessional segregation and institutionalization. These new forms of relations were reinforced by the flow of capital from Lebanese migrants, and society’s satisfaction with the transformation of the economy into a rentier economy.

Changing persistent concepts and habits is not trivial especially when the majority is unable to envision a radically new direction. Change often comes through a revolutionary process carried out by a revolutionary few, with the chances of success increasing as the crisis deepens and the situation deteriorates.

Contrary to popular belief, many of the changes in socio-political systems were a result of negotiations between several actors who may be internal or external. More than 50 countries have experienced peaceful transitions of power, including Tunisia, Sudan, South Africa, Spain, Brazil, Mexico, Hungary, El Salvador, France, and others.

Some examples will be highlighted to present a different perspective on the historical evolution of political systems:

  • South Africa: After nearly 50 years of rule, the apartheid regime began to face internal and external pressures including the German Unification, some signs of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the Boycott Campaign. Although this system could have continued, the country’s president at the time, Frederic de Klerk, realized that the regime’s continuation exposed it to great risks and was no longer sustainable, at least in the medium term. Following this realization, de Klerk decided to work with Nelson Mandela, who was released from prison, to organize the transition of power.
  • Spain: Following Franco’s death in Spain, King Juan Carlos began a transition to a democratic system rather than maintaining the one established by the dictator. This historical event is one of the most striking examples of transitions resulting from political negotiations.

France: The transition from the Fourth Republic to the Fifth Republic started with the Algerian Crisis, which turned resulted in a military coup in the then French colony, ending a few weeks later with political negotiations for a peaceful transition between the renegade Charles de Gaulle and the French authorities.

Download Examples of Peaceful Transitions

To say that the power system is a system of relations means that the issue is independent of certain officials. The fundamental issue is not with individuals; it is with an impotent system. These individuals are only a reflection of the prevailing system of societal relations, so they are condemned to fulfill the roles of these relations. Therefore, it becomes trivial that the power system is nepotistic, and is based on the alliance between militias and billionaires represented by leaders who draw their power and perpetuation from their ability to maintain the basis of the existing regime.

A power system is a system of prevailing relationships between individuals or groups of humans, including the predominance of some over others. The system grants to the rulers a number of privileges, the most important of which are the specific security and financial tools that are tolerated by the majority. Rulers are the only party authorized to use coercive force against those who are not following certain behavioral patterns determined by the relationship system. The authority has to act to preserve its legitimacy, that is, the recognition of a large group of people of its usefulness and efficiency.

Some examples of what has been called the system of relationships:

  • Family relationships, mostly patriarchal, in which men have power over women.
  • Employment relationships in which employers have power over employees.
  • Relationship between the individual and the state which in Lebanon is bypassed by local and confessional authorities. This system of relationships where civil rights are exchanged for allegiance is what is called clientelist.

The Lebanese civil war has reshaped the system of relationships. Massive human migration of Lebanese citizens to countries having a higher income created the rentier economy. This facilitated a system that relies on the power of the militias and sectarian leaders fueled by their alliance with opaque businesses billionaires.

The party adopts a pragmatic approach based on critical thinking and structural organization to serve its main goals. To maintain agility and effectiveness the party opted for a centralized decision-making process through which the executive committee makes key decisions and sets the party’s main direction.

Lebanon is currently in a transitional period that requires swift and effective political actions. The secretary general is elected by the party’s general committee for a three-year term that can be renewed only once. The secretary general in turn appoints the executive committee.

The general committee also elects the council of representatives which supports the executive committee and oversees the activities of the diverse sections within the party. The council assesses performance by noting successes and challenges within workgroups, and by liaising with the executive committee to improve the effectiveness of the party’s activity. The council represents the members of the party who have individually agreed on the party’s common political vision prior to accepting any executive responsibility within the party.

A core principle of the party is the concept of the actively engaged working member. All members are working members who:

  • Agree to the party’s internal rules and sign the membership request.
  • Declare their personal income and net worth and pay their dues.

Accept the work delegated to them and deliver effectively and reliably.

Self-funding is a core principle of Citizens in a State. Being self-funded allows the party to be politically independent and prevents outside interference in its decision making. All members of the party are required to declare their income and net worth to the secretary general who then calculates the membership fee that each must pay. Membership fees are calculated as follows:

  • 1% for the portion of income within the minimum wage and 2% for any position of income above the minimum wage. This is calculated based on the minimum wage in the country where the member lives.
  • Plus, one thousandth of the member’s net worth (assets minus liabilities).

This scheme for calculating membership fees reflects the Party’s vision on bracket taxation and wealth tax.

The party also accepts donations from members and supporters. Any donation that exceeds 10% of the party’s budget requires authorization from the party’s council of representatives before it gets accepted.


In August 2015, Lebanon witnessed popular demonstrations in response to the government’s failure to manage the garbage crisis. The demonstrations led to the formation of several political groups opposed to the government. However, those groups failed to articulate a unified political framework around which they could organize and mobilize. This failure allowed the sectarian leaders to absorb the shock and stay in power.

As the garbage crises began to reveal the magnitude of the financial crisis that was unfolding, the sectarian leaders in power rushed for help, as usual, to the governor of the central bank, Riad Salameh, who resorted to patch over the cracks through financial engineering. Meanwhile, they reached a political settlement which resulted in electing a new president and conducting municipal elections, while maintaining control over the country’s resources.

Citizens in a State was originally conceived as a collection of political opposition forces and groups who saw the upcoming parliamentary elections as an opportunity to disrupt the sectarianist and tribal discourse that dominated previous elections. They hoped to achieve this through a unified political program with which they ran across the whole country.

Citizens in a State’s attempt to unite opposition forces and organize their collaboration failed due to the emergence of deep differences among them. The focus of some groups on their narrow interests rather than the collective interests was one of the main reasons. The founders of Citizens in a State foresaw the inevitable economic and political collapse and decided, after the 2016 parliamentary elections, to establish a political party that opposes the sectarian leaders who continued to hold on to a failing system. The party aims to organize Lebanese people develop their capabilities and channel their collective efforts to confront the current political order and establish a new secular state.