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Chamoun, Camille (1900–1987)

CHAMOUN, CAMILLE (1900–1987)

President of the Republic of Lebanon (1952–1958). Camille Chamoun was born in 1900 at Dayr al-Qamar, in southern Mount Lebanon. Between 1916 and 1918, his family was forced into exile because of his father's pro-French sympathies. After he obtained a law degree, Chamoun worked in journalism, then was admitted to the bar in 1925. Elected representative of the Mount Lebanon area in 1934, he joined the ranks of the Destourian Bloc and became finance minister in 1938. During World War II he advocated the abolition of the French mandate over Lebanon. After Lebanon gained independence in 1943, Chamoun served as minister of the interior. From 1944 to 1947, he was ambassador of Lebanon in London, and also headed the Lebanese delegation at the United Nations, where he supported the cause of the Palestinians. In 1947 he was again named finance minister, and in April of the following year, represented his country at the Arab League.

After the legislative elections of 1951, Chamoun joined the ranks of the Socialist and Nationalist Front. On 2 September 1952, he was elected president of the Republic of Lebanon, following the withdrawal of his rival, Hamid Franjiyya. During his tenure, Chamoun modified the electoral districting in Lebanon, so as to lessen the influence of feudal holdovers. Internationally, he supported the Baghdad Pact without joining it, disapproved of the nationalization of the Suez Canal by Egyptian president Gamel Abdel Nasser, and was a partisan of the Eisenhower Doctrine. His rigging of the Parliamentary elections of 1957 led Chamoun's rivals to rebel against him in what has since become known as the 1958 Lebanese Civil War. Chamoun was allowed to stay in office until the end of his term—September 1958—but was not allowed to run for a second mandate.

Replaced in the presidency by Fouad Chehab, Chamoun retook his deputy's seat. In 1959 he founded the National Liberal Party (NLP), which maintained support for his political line. A determined opponent of President Chehab, the NLP formed an alliance with the Phalange of Pierre Jumayyil and the National Bloc of Raymond Eddé. During the summer of 1968, the coalition NLP-Phalange-National Bloc came out on top in the legislative elections. In 1970 Chamoun backed the election to the presidency of his adversary, Sulayman Franjiyya (Hamid's brother). Reelected to the Chamber in 1972, Chamoun became minister of the interior in the Karame government in July 1975.

During the Civil War of 1975–1976, Chamoun played a significant role as leader of the National Liberal Party, participating in political and military fighting on the Maronite fronts. On 17 June 1976, he was named foreign minister. Three months later he was appointed interim prime minister and was assigned the joined portfolios of foreign affairs and defense, up to the month of December. At that time he was accused by his enemies of being in favor of an alliance of the Lebanese Christian camp with Israel, while within his own party he found himself at odds with other Maronite leaders. In December 1976, Chamoun resigned from his positions. In July 1980, after bloody confrontations, the Lebanese Forces defeated NLP's militia, headed by his son Dany. Chamoun participated in the Government of National Unity formed in 1984, but his influence on national politics was negligible. He died in 1987.

SEE ALSO Chamoun, Dory; Eddé, Raymond; Franjiyya, Sulayman; Phalange.

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