Jihad Azour replaces Michel Moawad as Lebanon opposition's presidential candidate

Nomination comes after weeks of internal negotiations

Former Lebanese finance minister Jihad Azour. Pawan Singh / The National
Powered by automated translation

Lebanon’s parliamentary opposition formally nominated former finance minister Jihad Azour for the presidency on Sunday, moments after MP Michel Moawad announced the withdrawal of his own candidacy.

Mr Azour's candidacy was announced by legislator Mark Daou in a statement representing 32 opposition-aligned members of parliament.

The move follows weeks of internal negotiations during which the opposition worked to find a suitable alternative to Suleiman Frangieh, an MP backed by the powerful pro-Hezbollah bloc.

“He is the candidate capable of protecting Lebanon from collapse and domination,” Mr Daou said of Mr Azour.

Mr Azour’s nomination also comes after his endorsement by the Free Patriotic Movement on Saturday.

The FPM is in a marriage of convenience with Iran-backed Hezbollah but relations have cooled in recent months over the latter’s insistence on backing Mr Frangieh for the presidency.

Following the announcement, the opposition bloc called for an immediate electoral session in parliament.

'The project, not the person'

Mr Moawad endorsed Mr Azour after withdrawing his candidacy and said the issue had “always been the project, not the person”.

“I decided to contribute to reaching this intersection that led to the nomination of Jihad Azour, and we shall relentlessly continue our battle,” he said.

Until Sunday, Mr Moawad had been the candidate of choice for the parliamentary opposition.

His withdrawal follows weeks of talks between the opposition, led by the Lebanese Forces, which sought to find a strong alternative to Mr Frangieh.

Mr Moawad had been unable to garner enough votes for the presidency, with blank ballots consistently outnumbering the votes cast in his favour in eleven different electoral sessions.

Lebanon has grappled with a presidential vacuum since the departure of former President Michel Aoun from office in October.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has convened 11 sessions to pick a president but MPs have so far failed to reach a consensus on his successor.

Updated: June 05, 2023, 4:18 AM