Lebanon: Parliament called to elect new president after seven months of vacancy

Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berry summoned MPs to an election session on June 5 on Monday (June 14th) to elect a new President of the Republic. This will be the twelfth parliamentary session devoted to the election of a Head of State since the end of Michel Aoun's mandate at the end of October 2022.

Jihad Azour's candidacy for the presidency brought together the consensus of the main Christian parties and parliamentary blocs other than Hezbollah and its allies. Here, during an interview in Dubai, May 2, 2023. © Abdel Hadi Ramahi / Reuters

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At the June 14 session, two candidates will be running. The first, Sleimane Frangié, is a Maronite leader from northern Lebanon and is supported by Hezbollah and its allies. The second is Jihad Azour, head of the Middle East and Central Asia Department of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). It is supported by the main Christian parties and other parliamentary blocs, reports our correspondent in Beirut, Paul Khalifeh.

The Free Patriotic Movement, founded by Michel Aoun and Samir Geagea's Lebanese Forces, formalized Sunday, June 4, its support for the candidacy of Jihad Azour. This after long negotiations to block the road to the Hezbollah candidate. The man who was also former Finance Minister in Lebanon (2005-2008) has not yet officially announced his candidacy.

This does not mean, however, that Lebanon will have a president on June 14 after more than seven months of vacancy in the first magistracy of the state. Hezbollah reacted badly to the IMF official's candidacy, deeming him too close to the Americans and calling him "a candidate of challenge and confrontation [that] will not go far," according to MK Hassan Fadlallah.

Risk of lack of quorum and blockages on the horizon

A déjà vu scenario is therefore on the horizon. At the first sitting, two-thirds of the votes, or 86 deputies, are needed to elect the President. However, neither candidate can obtain this score at this stage.

At the next session, Hezbollah and its allies will likely cause a lack of quorum so that Jihad Azour is not elected with the necessary 65 votes. Parliament is deeply divided between the pro-Iranian Hezbollah camp and the one hostile to it, and cannot agree on a successor to Michel Aoun, whose presidential term expired on October 31.

Hezbollah does not have the necessary majority in parliament to impose its candidate. His opponents, notably from Christian parties, also failed to impose their candidate Michel Moawad. The latter had been a presidential candidate, but announced on Sunday that he was withdrawing his candidacy and supporting Jihad Azour.

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  • Lebanon
  • Michel Aoun