Berri schedules June 14 presidential election session


Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri on Monday called for a June 14 presidential election session, a day after the opposition officially endorsed ex-minister Jihad Azour as its presidential candidate.

It will be the 12th time that parliament tries to elect a new president after 11 fruitless sessions, the last of which was held on January 19.

The 12th session will be held at 11am Wednesday, June 14, Berri said in a statement.

Berri had said that he would immediately call for a session once the opposition announces a “serious” nomination.

Former president Michel Aoun's term expired last October and the country has been without a president for seven months. Bitter political divisions have prevented any candidate 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.

On Sunday, Change lawmaker Mark Daou read a statement on behalf of a group of 32 opposition legislators, endorsing Azour "as a candidate that is not considered provocative by any political factor in the country."

The same MPs had previously backed another presidential candidate, parliamentarian Michel Moawad, who on Sunday announced he was withdrawing his nomination and backing Azour.

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.

Hezbollah, which has a huge hold over political life in Lebanon, has endorsed ex-minister Suleiman Franjieh for the presidency. Hezbollah’s allies – except for the Free Patriotic Movement – have also voiced support for Franjieh.

Hezbollah lawmaker Hassan Fadlallah called Azour's nomination "a waste of time," insisting that "the candidate of confrontation" will not be elected president.

The FPM meanwhile said it would support Azour.

Any candidate would need two thirds of parliament’s votes to be declared president from the first electoral round. A candidate can be elected with 65 votes in the second round but two thirds of parliament’s members need to be present during that vote. Accordingly, any political camp might strip the second round of the needed quorum if it senses that its candidate would certainly lose.

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