Lebanese parliament again delays key vote on army commander

Discussions on extending tenure of General Joseph Aoun adjourned until at least Friday afternoon

General Joseph Aoun (R), the Lebanese Army Chief of Staff, arrives to attend a handover ceremony organised by the Lebanese Armed Forces of four A-29 Super Tucano aircraft given by the US at Hamat airbase, north of Beirut on June 12, 2018. Lebaneon received the second lot of four A-29 Super Tucano aircraft on June 12, from the US government, in its bid to assist the Lebanese armed forces. / AFP / JOSEPH EID
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A crucial session in the Lebanese parliament that could help resolve a potential vacuum at the head of the army was adjourned on Thursday night without a vote being held on extending the tenure of General Joseph Aoun.

Speaker Nabih Berri had called the 128-seat parliament for a session starting at 11am to vote on a series of laws, including extending Gen Aoun's tenure by a year. But the latter was not discussed and is instead more likely to be voted on when the legislature will next meet on Friday afternoon at 3pm - after the cabinet will convene to discuss the matter.

The caretaker government had seemingly dragged its feet over the issue for months, but it has since been revealed that the Council of Ministers will also meet on Friday.

“There can be no vacuum at the head of the military institution,” said Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah on Thursday.

Gen Aoun's term is set to end on January 10. In the event of a vacancy at the top of the army, the Chief of Staff would step in – but that role has also been empty for a year.

The head of state is responsible for appointing significant positions, including the army commander, but Lebanon has been without a president since October 2022, as the bitterly divided parliament has failed agree on a successors to Michel Aoun. The former president is not related to the current army commander.

While the Council of Ministers typically takes on head of state powers in the event of a presidential vacuum – common in Lebanon – the cabinet is in a caretaker status and thus severely restricted in its powers as the country faces an unprecedented governance vacuum.

UN soldiers help south Lebanese firefighters prepare for war

UN soldiers help south Lebanese firefighters prepare for war

Some political blocs, particularly the Free Patriotic Movement, remain deeply opposed to extending the term of Gen Aoun. They argue it would be unconstitutional to do so and that a senior officer could step in to fill the void.

Supporters of extending Gen Aoun's term accuse of FPM leader Gebran Bassil of being motivated by personal disagreements with the army commander, something that Mr Bassil denies.

He has previously accused the general of financial irregularities during his tenure at the top of the army.

Updated: December 14, 2023, 6:07 PM