Election of new Lebanese president ends 29-month stalemate

Lebanon has been without a head of state after Michel Suleiman terminated his presidency at the end of his term in May 2014.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

The deeply divided parliament took four rounds of voting to elect Michel Aoun, whose supporters flooded streets and squares across the country to celebrate his victory.

The Lebanese parliament elected Michel Aoun as the new president of the country after two and a half years of a presidential vacancy. 

Lebanon was without a head of state after Michel Suleiman terminated his presidency at the end of his term in May 2014. Since the end of Suleiman’s presidency, 45 failed sessions were made to elect a new president.

On Monday, a quorum for a presidential ballot was reached when just over 100 out of 128 members of parliament arrived to vote. Aoun acquired the support of 83 of those members, well over the 65 absolute majority needed to win the elections. 

Aoun, 81, is a Maronite Christian politician and a founder of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM).

Lebanon has a power-sharing system that requires representation of different religious sects -- the president must be a Maronite Christian and the prime minister a Sunni Muslim.

It is therefore expected that Aoun will appoint Sunni Muslim leader Saad al-Hariri as the prime minister.

However, President Aoun will meet with parliamentary members this week to talk about their preferences for prime minister.  He will nominate the candidate with the greatest support amongst parliamentarians. 

Political divide 

Michel Aoun is a former Lebanese army chief and his candidacy was backed from the beginning by Hezbollah -- his ally since a surprise rapprochement in 2006. 

The key, though, to clinching the post was the shock support of two of his greatest rivals: Samir Geagea, leader of the Christian Lebanese Forces, and Sunni former premier Saad Hariri.

Hariri, who Aoun is expected to appoint as the prime minister, said his endorsement was necessary to "protect Lebanon, protect the [politica] system, protect the state and protect the Lebanese people".

Lebanon's political divide has been deepened by the war in neighbouring Syria, where Hezbollah and its allies back regime leader Bashar al-Assad, even dispatching fighters to bolster his forces.

Hariri and his political allies firmly oppose Assad, as well as Hezbollah, which they accuse of seeking to monopolise power in Lebanon.

The divisions meant lawmakers were repeatedly unable to reach consensus on a candidate for president.

TRTWorld and agencies