For the 12th time, Lebanon’s parliament has failed to elect a President, making it unable to break a political deadlock that has plagued the country for months.
On Wednesday, June 14, 2023, Lawmakers held a session to select a replacement for former President Michel Aoun, whose term ended last October. However, disagreements prevented them from reaching the required thresholds.
The meeting came after 11 previous sessions by the parliament; the last of which was held in January, failed to elect President Michel Aoun’s replacement.
The main competition was between Jihad Azour, a former Finance Minister and senior official with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and Sleiman Frangieh, leader of the Marada party whose family has a long history in Lebanese politics.
Frangieh trailed behind his main rival, Jihad Azour in the first round of voting. Azour, who is supported by the opposition to Hezbollah and some of its nominal allies, received 59 votes to 51 for Frangieh, while 18 lawmakers cast blank ballots, protest votes or voted for minority candidates. However, Azour failed to reach the two-thirds majority needed to win in the first round.
The Lebanese Parliament requires 86 from a possible maximum of 128 lawmakers, or two-thirds, to elect a new leader in the first round of voting.
Under Lebanon’s complex power-sharing agreement, the country’s President has to be a Maronite Christian, the Speaker of Parliament; a Shiite Muslim and the Prime Minister; a Sunni.
The Deputy Speaker of parliament and Deputy Prime Minister positions are held by Greek Orthodox Christians, and the Chief of the general staff of the armed forces is always Druze.
The MPs themselves are divided along a quota system, with a ratio of 6:5 required of Christians to Muslims and Druze.
Azour has the support of the country’s largest Christian political parties, the Free Patriotic Movement, which has been allied with Hezbollah since 2006, and the Lebanese Forces party, an opponent to Hezbollah.
Azour is also backed by the majority of Druze legislators and some Sunni Muslims, while Shiite members of parliament have overwhelmingly backed Frangieh.
Thirteenth Attempt To Elect President Not Scheduled
No date has been set for a thirteenth attempt to elect a President for the country.
Getting this nation of 6 million people, which includes more than 1 million Syrian refugees, out of an extraordinary economic crisis that started in October 2019 will be the incoming President’s first priority.
The political elite of the nation, which has dominated Lebanon since the end of the civil war in 1975–1990, is to blame for decades of corruption and poor administration.
Securing a bailout deal with the IMF, Azour’s current employer, is perceived as essential to Lebanon’s economic recovery. Azour took a leave of absence from his post as Regional Director for the organization upon announcing his candidacy.
Azour’s supporters accused Hezbollah and its allies of blocking the democratic process. Fadi Karam, lawmaker from Lebanese Forces, said, “This group does not believe in democracy.” While Independent lawmaker Waddah Sadek remarked that “nobody can nominate a candidate and say it’s either them or nobody else.”
“Who better than Jihad Azour to seal the deal with the IMF that can help guarantee us international investment,” Sadek added.
Azour has said that he would work to bring together rival political groups and end the economic crisis despite the fact that Hezbollah has often criticized opposing candidates as divisive and “confrontational.”