Beirut (AsiaNews) – Christian leader Michel Aoun received the number of votes needed to be elected president of the Republic of Lebanon. His election came on the on the third ballot after voting began this morning in Lebanon’s parliament.
Aoun’s election gives the country a president after at least 29 months of institutional vacuum. Saudi Arabia, which opposed him, comes out weakened in the region.
Aoun, who needed 86 votes or two thirds to be elected in the first round of voting. He received 84 votes in the first ballot, with 36 blank and 2 spoilt ballots. The second round was cancelled when the speaker announced that 128 ballots were cast but only 127 electors were present for the voting.
TV cameras caught Samir Gemayel, head of the Phalange Party and son of former President Amin Gemayel, casting two ballots stuck to each other. National Assembly Speaker Nabih Berry, head of the Amal party, chastised those present urging them to live up to the historic moment.
The third vote took place with each elector called to vote, each showing that only one ballot was being cast, an event unprecedented in Lebanon’s history.
Under Lebanon’s constitution, the president is a Maronite Christian. For a week now, former general Aoun, a native of Jezzine in southern Lebanon, was expected to win.
This morning, his party, members of the Future Movement (Arabic: Tayyar Al-Mustaqbal) began celebrations by handing out sweets in the streets and preparing to mark the election at 8 pm in Martyrs Square, central Beirut.
Even Israeli media today reported Aoun’s election as president of Lebanon describing it as a Saudi and US white flag to Hezbollah and Iran.
"For the first time,” wrote one Israeli paper" Lebanese Christians with Aoun have turned away from the West, the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel towards Iran." For a long time, Aoun had cultivated an alliance with Hezbollah, the Shia party, eager to escape the various feudal clans that dominated Lebanese political life.
Michel Aoun got 83 votes in the third ballot saw (only 50 per cent plus 1 was needed) with six spoilt ballots, five of which by Gemayel’s Christian Phalange lawmakers who wrote on them "The Cedar Revolution in the service of Lebanon” and one by an Orthodox that said “Zorbas the Greek”.
Lebanon’s 13th president takes over at very delicate time for the country, threatened by regional and international conflicts as well as the Islamic State.
General Michel Aoun is back in the Presidential Palace after 26 years. In 1988, then Lebanese President Amin Gemayel appointed the general, who was Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, as pro-temp head of state at the end of his term of office.
At the time, Aoun fought Syria’s hold on the country. When Lebanon found some peace with the Taif Accords in 1990, he fled to France.
Under the recent deal, Aoun is expected to appoint Saad Hariri, who is coming back from exile, as prime minister. This comes as the latter’s Saudi ally sees its position in the region weakened.
Sources in Beirut say that Hariri plans to form his future government at the end of the week.