Parliament fails for fifth time to elect a president

Lebanon's divided parliament failed Thursday to elect a new president for the fifth time, with the post vacant since the mandate of Michel Aoun expired last month.

Michel Mouawad, whose father Rene Mouawad served as president, was the frontrunner with 44 votes on Thursday, still far short of the two-thirds majority -- or 86 ballots -- needed to win.

Out of 108 votes, prominent historian and academic Issam khalifeh won six, former Minister Ziad Baroud garnered one vote and 47 MPs cast a blank vote.

Parliament is split between supporters of Hezbollah and its opponents, neither having a clear majority.

Hezbollah rejects the candidacy of Mouawad, who is seen as close to the United States, and calls for a "compromise candidate" to be found.

"Neither camp can impose a candidate, a compromise must be found and an understanding reached on a candidate acceptable to everyone," deputy speaker Elias Bou Saab told AFP in an interview on Tuesday.

A second round was cancelled due to lack of quorum, after some MPs left the session before the second round as they did in the past four sessions.

Former candidate for World Bank chief Ziad Hayek garnered one vote in the first round and seven MPS voted "The New Lebanon". One MP voted "For Lebanon" and MP Michel Douaihy, who had announced last month his withdrawal from the Change bloc, voted "Plan B".

Change MPs demanded an open session until the election of a President.

"The chamber must be locked, and the Lebanese must rally outside Parliament until a President is elected," Change MP Elias Jradeh said.

MP Melhem Khalaf said during and after the session that the constitution says that Parliament must stay convened until a president is elected. So did Kataeb chief MP Sami Gemayel. Both called for an open session even if it lasts for days, citing the Article 49 of the constitution.

The Change MPs did not vote for the same candidate in today's session. While some voted for Khalifeh, MP Waddah al-Sadek voted for Mouawad, and MPs Marc Daou and Najat Saliba voted with a slogan, Daou said. Jradeh either voted for Baroud or Hayek.

Amal, Hezbollah and the FPM cast again a blank vote. The Lebanese Forces, the Progressive Socialist party and al-Kataeb party endorsed Mouawwad again, along with other independent MPs.

Deputy Speaker Elias Bou Saab had said that he will not cast a blank vote and that the FPM MPs have agreed that "blank ballots are no longer acceptable."

FPM MP Alain Aoun said after the session that by casting a blank vote, the FPM is giving a chance for further consultations, as he considered it pointless to vote for a candidate who will only get "twenty votes."

After the first round, Speaker Nabih Berri announced that the next session will be held next Thursday.

Aoun's own election in 2016 followed a more than two-year vacancy at the presidential palace as lawmakers made 45 failed attempts to reach consensus on a candidate.

But this year's vacancy comes as Lebanon is gripped by an unprecedented financial crisis that has pushed much of the population into poverty since 2019.

During a vacancy, the powers of the president fall to the cabinet.

But since May Lebanon has had only a caretaker government that lacks the authority to push through the sweeping reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund as a condition for releasing billions of dollars in emergency loans.

Source: Naharnet

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