Lebanon fails to elect new president in ninth electoral session

Divided parliament's failure to elect a president pushes the country deeper into institutional deadlock

Lebanese presidential candidate Michel Moawad, centre, with other legislators in Beirut in October. AP Photo
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Lebanon's divided parliament failed for the ninth time to elect a successor to former president Michel Aoun, extending the power vacuum ― the country has been without a president and been ruled by a caretaker government with limited powers since May.

The parliament is split between pro-Hezbollah legislators and its opponents, neither of whom has a clear majority.

Hezbollah is an armed militia and a powerful political party that is backed by Iran.

Independent MP Michel Moawad won the support of 39 of 128 MPs, while 39 submitted a blank ballot and nine MPs wrote the words "New Lebanon" on their submissions.

The parliament needs a two-thirds majority for a candidate to win in the first round. If it does not succeed, the following sessions require an absolute majority.

The two-thirds quorum required for the parliament to convene was lost before a second round of voting could take place, as pro-Hezbollah MPs left the session.

One vote was cast for South African anti-apartheid activist and former president Nelson Mandela. This is not the first time legislators wrote in mock choices on their ballots. Other sessions included candidates such as Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Brazil's leftist president-elect, and Salvador Allende, the socialist president of Chile from 1970 to 1973.

Mr Moawad, who is seen as being close to the United States, has received the support of anti-Hezbollah MPs, which includes the Christian party Lebanese Forces — the largest party in the parliament.

Hassan Nasrallah, who is against Mr Moawad's candidacy, called last month for a president who is ready to oppose the United States.

The failure to elect a president was largely expected. The turnout of legislators, only 105 MPs took part in the session, with the high number of blank or protest votes, shows that a consensus candidate is yet to emerge.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri set the 10th presidential session for next Thursday, the last one before the end of the year.

This is not the first time the country has been without a president since its 1975-1990 civil war. Mr Aoun was elected in 2016 after two and a half years of vacuum and 46 electoral sessions.

But this year’s vacancy comes as Lebanon is battling an unprecedented financial crisis labelled by the World Bank as one of the worse in modern history.

The international community has warned that this power vacuum is only pushing the country deeper into crisis, with much of the population now living in poverty.

Updated: December 08, 2022, 11:44 AM
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