Lebanon's parliament Speaker calls for June 15 deadline to elect president

Nabih Berri hopes central bank vacancy will push parties to reach consensus

Speaker Nabih Berri says the president must be given a say in the appointment of a new central bank governor. Reuters
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Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has called for a June 15 deadline to elect Lebanon’s next president, in the hope that a looming vacancy for governor of the country’s central bank will spur political groups to reach compromise on a new head of state.

“It is not permissible to accept the selection of a governor for the Banque du Liban without the president of the republic having a say in this matter,” he said.

Lebanon has been without a head of state since former president Michel Aoun's term ended on October 31 last year. Parliament has convened 11 times since then to elect a new president, without success. Blank ballots consistently outnumbered the votes cast for the main candidate, Michel Mouawad.

Since the last attempt in January, consultations between political parties and international allies and proxies have progressed in the background.

In his statement, Mr Berri said the “regional and international climate regarding the presidential elections are encouraging”, indicating progress in backroom talks.

He warned of the “risks resulting from reaching a vacancy” at the central bank after Governor Riad Salameh leaves, saying he hoped this would incentivise political rivals to reach agreement on a consensus candidate.

Since 2019 Lebanon has been mired in an economic crisis blamed on corruption and mismanagement by the entrenched ruling elite. Mr Salameh, who has headed the central bank since 1993, faces domestic and international investigations on charges that include money laundering and illicit enrichment.

With politicians slow to implement the economic reforms necessary to pull Lebanon out of its financial meltdown, the state has largely relied on Mr Salameh’s financial engineering to stem the rapid collapse.

However, Mr Salameh has said he will step down when his fifth consecutive six-year term ends in July.

Updated: May 11, 2023, 8:50 AM