Lebanese Maronite Christian politician, president 1952–58. As president, he pursued pro-Western policies, antagonizing leftist-Nasserists, and, after being accused of rigging the 1957 elections, became increasingly authoritarian. His refusal as president to support Lebanon's possible accession into Syria and Egypt's new United Arab Republic and rumours that he was seeking a second term led to civil war in June–July 1958, which was ended by the landing of US troops and by the election of army commander General Fuad Shihab (Chehab) as president. Chamoun responded by founding the National Liberal Party, but was to return only briefly to government, in 1975–76 and 1984.
During the 1960s and 1970s Chamoun remained a leading figure within the Christian camp, which attempted to preserve Lebanon's political pluralism under Christian Maronite leadership, and which resisted integration into Pan-Arab alignments. During the civil war of 1975–82 he headed a loose Lebanese Front of Christian-Maronite factions and his supporters set up armed militias, known as the Tigers. By 1980 the Tigers had been eliminated as a fighting force by the Phalangists, led by Bechir Gemayel. Chamoun's son, Danny Chamoun (1934–1990), succeeded him as party leader in 1987, but was murdered, with his wife and two sons, by pro-Syria militias.
Born in Deir al-Qamar in the Shuf region of southern Lebanon, Chamoun studied at the French Law College of Beirut. He was first elected a member of the Lebanese parliament in 1934 and became finance minister in 1938 and interior minister in 1943, when he helped negotiate Lebanon's unwritten intercommunal National Pact that provided for power-sharing between a Maronite Christian president and a Sunni Muslim prime minister. Chamoun resigned from the government in 1948 after President Bishara al-Khuri had amended the constitution to enable him to serve a second term. In September 1952, with opposition growing to government corruption under al-Khuri, Chamoun staged a semi-coup, forcing al-Khuri to resign, and parliament elected Chamoun as his replacement.