10/26/2022, 13.22
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Beirut, the spectre of the presidential vacuum

by Fady Noun

With only a few days to go before Aoun's mandate expires, a fourth vote has failed. Cross vetoes between the two blocs, the pro-Iranian one and the opponents, weigh heavily. The parties' game to make the quorum fail. An issue at the heart of the meeting between Macron and Pope Francis. Fears of a drift "towards the unknown". 

Beirut (AsiaNews) - With just a few days to go before the expiry of Michel Aoun's presidential term on October 31, the struggle for political hegemony between Hezbollah and its Christian allies (CLP) on the one hand, and the opposition coalition Lebanese Forces-Progressive Socialist Party, which wants to block the way for the re-election of a president favourable to the pro-Iranian camp, is in full swing.

All residual hope of seeing a new head of state elected seems lost, as well as of seeing the interim government for the management of the current affairs of current Prime Minister Nagib Mikati strengthened and fully legitimised.

On 24 October, Lebanese MPs failed, for the fourth time, to elect Aoun's successor. Neither of the warring factions possesses the two-thirds majority of votes necessary for the nomination, but both have the so-called 'blocking third' of 43 votes, which is necessary to blow up the quorum of 86 seats required by law for the election.

Added to this is the fact that, as of the second vote, the head of state can be appointed with an absolute majority of 65 votes, provided the quorum is met. At the moment, no compromise between the parties is on the horizon, and the President of the Chamber of Deputies has not set any immediate date for an upcoming session devoted to the vote. 

Analysing the elections for Ici-Beyrouth, political scientist Fady Rahmé, a lecturer and strategy expert at Sciences-Po (Paris), explains that the election of a new president in Lebanon is linked to the regional and international context, and to the behind-the-scenes struggles for influence in the region between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Rahmé emphasises, ''The presidential elections, must be the subject of a broader package of agreements. The question is not 'who will be the president', but 'what will this president do'." According to the expert, 'the information we have in this regard, we can borrow from three of the four architects of a solution to the Lebanese question': the United States, France, and Saudi Arabia (the fourth is Tehran).

Meeting on 21 September in New York on the sidelines of the 77th UN General Assembly, the representatives of these countries issued a joint statement, in which they defined the Taëf agreement as a 'framework within which they can provide their support to Lebanon'. The joint note went on to explain that 'Lebanon must implement the reforms requested by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and organise presidential elections within constitutional deadlines'.

The signatories went on to affirm 'the need for the Lebanese government to implement the provisions contained in UN Security Council Resolutions 1559, 1680, 1701 and 2650' [...] and to commit 'to respect the Taëf Agreement, which allows for the protection of national unity and civil peace in Lebanon'. 

Tied to the Taëf Agreement, Resolution 1559 specifically calls for 'the disarmament and disbandment of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias'. For Rahmé, politics and economics are closely linked, 'but politics takes precedence' and the key passage in this statement is: 'The Taëf Agreement, sponsored by Saudi Arabia'. The political scientist concludes by warning that 'we must not deceive ourselves, without the support of Western powers and the Arab oil states, Lebanon will not be able to rise again'.

The Middle East, and more specifically the Lebanese crisis, were on the agenda on 24 October during French President Emmanuel Macron's visit to Pope Francis. According to well-informed sources relayed by Parisian journalist Mona es-Saïd, the pontiff and the Elysée Palace tenant agreed on the need to elect a new president within the constitutional terms, to avoid any risk of drifting 'into the unknown'.

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