Gemayel, Amin (Lebanon)

Reference work entry


Amin Gemayel became state president on 23 Sept. 1982. His younger brother Bashir, the leader of the Christian Maronite Phalangist militia, had been elected unopposed by the National Assembly the previous month but was assassinated on 14 Sept. Although more moderate than his brother, and generally more acceptable to the Muslim population, Amin Gemayel proved no more successful than his predecessors in securing agreement between Lebanon’s warring groups.

Early Life

He was born in Bikfaya, northeast of Beirut, on 22 Jan. 1942, the son of Pierre Gemayel who founded the Phalangist Party. He trained as a lawyer. More active in the political rather than the military sphere, he oversaw the Phalangist Party’s business interests while his brother led the party militia. He also co-founded a right-wing French language newspaper, Le Réveil. Gemayel was elected to the National Assembly in 1970 and later fought in the 1975–76 civil war.

Career Peak

Following his brother’s death in a bomb explosion, Gemayel was elected president by the Assembly. He received initial expressions of support from Sunni and Shia Muslim leaders, having maintained contacts with them in the period after the civil war, and from Arab leaders, notably the president of Syria. However, although Gemayel showed himself to be conciliatory towards the other religious groups, he was unable to assert any real authority over a country largely under Syrian and Israeli occupation, divided by sectarian and factional rivalries and terrorism, and in accelerating economic decline. Constitutionally, no progress was made in revising the 1943 power-sharing agreement to balance the Christian ascendancy with the Muslim numerical preponderance. Gemayel’s 6 year-term of office ended on 23 Sept. 1988, with the National Assembly deadlocked over the election of a successor. His final act as president was the appointment of an interim military government headed by a Maronite Christian general, Michel Aoun. This was rejected by Lebanese Muslims and the Syrians. The country was essentially divided between a Christian government based in east Beirut and a Muslim administration in west Beirut, in turn leading to two further years of conflict. Having left office, Gemayel spent the next 12 years in France before returning to Lebanon in July 2000.

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