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Camille Chamoun

President of Lebanon

President Camille Chamoun

Camille Nemr Chamoun was born in Dayr al-Qaman, Lebanon, on April 3, 1900. He was educated in Beirut and subsequently became a lawyer. He was first elected to Parliament in 1929, when Lebanon was a French mandate, and was re-elected in 1934, 1937. Lebanon became an indpendent country in 1943, and Chamoun was elected to the first independent Parliament that same year. He also served as Lebanon's Ambassador to the United Kingdom (1944-1946) and then to the United Nations, and was re-elected to Parliament in 1951.

Chamoun expected to succeed Bishara al-Khuri as President of Lebanon, but that expectation was shattered when Khuri's term was renewed by Parliament in 1948. He began organizing parliamentary opposition soon after, and by the summer of 1952 had won extensive support, both in Parliament and among the general population. Khuri was forced to resign during a general strike in September 1952, and Chamoun was elected his successor.

As President, Chamoun reorganized governmental departments in an attempt to realize a more efficient administration. Lebanese politics remained geared to serving special interests, however, and Chamoun's reforms bore little fruit.

Chamoun faced a crisis in 1956 when Muslim leaders demanded that he break relations with Britain and France, which had just attacked Egypt over rights to the Suez Canal. Chamoun not only refused to do this but also named a pro-Western Minister of Foreign Affairs.

In May 1958, armed rebellion broke out in Beirut, supported mostly by Muslim elements. The Lebanese army commander, Fuad Chehab refused to quell the rebellion with military force, but did act to prevent its spread to other areas. After a coup d'etat in Itaq on July 14 Chamoun's position became so desperate that he asked for U.S. intervention, and the landing of U.S. Marines near Beirut on July 15 ended the rebellion. Chamoun did not seek another term as President, and Parliament elected Chehab as his successor on July 31. Chamoun surrendered his office to Chehab on September 23.

After a brief retirement from politics, Chamoun founded the National Liberal Party. He was returned to Parliament in 1960, but a change in voting districts led to his defeat for re-election in 1964. He was returned again in 1968, and re-elected in 1972. When civil war erupted in 1975, he became involved in defending Lebanon against Syrian intervention and held a succession of ministerial posts. He was serving as Minister of Finance when he died on August 7, 1987, in Beirut.

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The Robinson Library >> Lebanon

This page was last updated on 12/27/2018.