Le­banon elect Aoun pres­i­dent, end­ing 29-month void

Pakistan Observer - - FRONT PAGE -

BEIRUT—Le­banon’s par­lia­ment on Mon­day 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 also failed to get elected by a two-thirds ma­jor­ity in the first round, as had been widely ex­pected.

Mem­bers of par­lia­ment broke out in thun­der­ous ap­plause af­ter Aoun fi­nally was 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, re­ports Arab News.

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.

Aoun has a wide sup­port base, mostly among Le­banon’s ed­u­cated youth, but is a di­vi­sive fig­ure in Le­banon for his role in the 1975-90 civil war. Still, there is cau­tious hope that his elec­tion would breathe some life into state in­sti­tu­tions that have been par­a­lyzed for too long. Le­banon has been with­out a head of state for 29 months af­ter Pres­i­dent Michel Suleiman stepped down at the end of his term in May 2014. Since then, 45 ses­sions to elect a new leader have failed due to political in­fight­ing that led to of a lack of quo­rum as Aoun’s block and al­lied Hezbol­lah law­mak­ers boy­cotted the ses­sions be­cause his elec­tion was not guar­an­teed.

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