Lebanese Lawmakers Fail in Yet Another Attempt to Elect a President and End the Power Vacuum

Lebanese lawmakers failed on Wednesday to elect a president, prolonging a seven-month power vacuum that has destabilized the small Mediterranean nation. The twelfth attempt to elect a president ended when the bloc led by the influential political party and militant group Hezbollah withdrew after the first round of voting, breaking the quorum.

Hezbollah’s preferred candidate, Sleiman Frangieh, a close ally of Syria’s ruling Assad family, trailed behind his main rival, Jihad Azour, a former finance minister and senior International Monetary Fund (IMF) official. Azour, supported by the opposition to Hezbollah and some of its nominal allies, received 59 votes to Frangieh’s 51. However, Azour failed to secure the two-thirds majority needed to win in the first round.

The parliament has held 11 previous sessions, the last of which took place in January, in an attempt to elect a replacement for President Michel Aoun, a Hezbollah ally whose term ended in late October.

Azour has the backing of Lebanon’s largest Christian political parties, the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces party, as well as the majority of Druze legislators and some Sunni Muslims. In contrast, Shiite members of parliament have overwhelmingly supported Frangieh.

The new president’s primary task will be to address Lebanon’s unprecedented economic crisis, which began in October 2019 and is rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement by the country’s political class. Securing a bailout deal with the IMF, Azour’s current employer, is seen as crucial to Lebanon’s recovery.

Azour’s supporters accused Hezbollah and its allies of obstructing the democratic process. Hezbollah lawmaker Hussein Haj Hassan claimed that Azour and his supporters lacked a political program and called for a “real national dialogue away from the auctioneering and intimidation.”

No date has been set for a thirteenth attempt to elect a president.


ABC News
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