Par­lia­ment elects new pres­i­dent, end­ing vacuum

Jamaica Gleaner - - INTERNATIONAL NEWS -

BEIRUT (AP): LE­BANON’S PAR­LIA­MENT yes­ter­day elected Michel Aoun, an 81-year-old for­mer army com­man­der and strong ally of the mil­i­tant group Hezbol­lah, as the coun­try’s pres­i­dent, end­ing a more than two-year vacuum in the top post and a po­lit­i­cal cri­sis that brought state in­sti­tu­tions per­ilously close to col­lapse.

Aoun se­cured a sim­ple ma­jor­ity of votes in the house af­ter a chaotic ses­sion that saw sev­eral rounds of vot­ing be­cause ex­tra bal­lots ap­peared in the bal­lot box each time. He gar­nered 83 votes out of 127 law­mak­ers present at the ses­sion.

He had been widely ex­pected to achieve a two thirds ma­jor­ity in the first round, but failed by two votes.

Mem­bers of par­lia­ment broke out in ap­plause af­ter Aoun was fi­nally de­clared pres­i­dent by Par­lia­ment Speaker Nabih Berri. His sup­port­ers across the coun­try erupted in cheers as they watched the pro­ceed­ings on huge screens set up in the streets. Brief cel­e­bra­tory gun­fire could also be heard in the cap­i­tal.

“We’ve got a pres­i­dent to­day who will take care of all the Le­banese, all of Le­banon, not just one fac­tion,” said Khalil Shukr, a 21-year-old Aoun sup­porter wear­ing a yel­low Tshirt, the colour of the Hezbol­lah flag.

“I’m with Hezbol­lah, and my hand is with Hezbol­lah, and we are with Aoun,” added Shukr, stand­ing among a crowd gath­ered at the Mar Yousef church in Aoun’s child­hood town, Haret Hreik, now a crowded Beirut sub­urb dom­i­nated by Hezbol­lah.

Aoun’s elec­tion is seen by many as a clear vic­tory for the pro-Ira­nian axis in the Mid­dle East, giv­ing a boost to Hezbol­lah and the Shi­ite Le­banese group’s ally, Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad. The elec­tion came at a time of great re­gional up­heaval, es­pe­cially in neigh­bour­ing Syria, where the civil war has re­peat­edly spilled over into Le­banon.

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