Opposition officially endorses Azour for presidency
Opposition lawmakers on Sunday nominated Jihad Azour, an International Monetary Fund regional director and former minister, for president.
MP Mark Daou of the Change bloc read a statement on behalf of 32 opposition legislators, endorsing Azour after weeks of negotiations "as a candidate that is not considered provocative by any political factor in the country." The lawmakers belong to the Lebanese Forces, the Kataeb Party and the Tajaddod bloc in addition to several independent and Change MPs.
The same MPs had previously backed another presidential candidate, parliamentarian Michel Mouawad, who on Sunday announced he was withdrawing his nomination and backing Azour. Both declarations were made at Mouawad's residence.
Azour, the IMF's Middle East and Central Asia director, served as Lebanon's finance minister from 2005 to 2008.
He has yet to officially announce a presidential bid.
The international community has urged Lebanese officials to fill the vacant presidency, which would allow the country, mired in a crippling economic crisis since 2019, to carry out reforms needed to unlock much needed IMF loans.
Iran-backed Hezbollah, which has a huge hold over political life in Lebanon, has endorsed the pro-Damascus Suleiman Franjieh for the presidency.
But opposition from the country's two main Christian parties, the LF and the Free Patriotic Movement, means that Franjieh lacks a clear path to majority backing in the divided parliament.
Hezbollah lawmaker Hassan Fadlallah called Azour's nomination "a waste of time," insisting that "the candidate of confrontation" will not be elected president.
Hezbollah's key Christian ally, the Free Patriotic Movement, said it would support Azour.
With no clear majority for any candidate, it is unclear when Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri might call a new vote.
Former president Michel Aoun's term expired last October. Since then, there have been 11 parliamentary votes to try to name a new president, but bitter divisions have prevented anyone from garnering enough support to succeed Aoun.
Crisis-hit Lebanon has been run by a caretaker government with limited powers since legislative elections in May 2022 resulted in no side with a clear majority.