Lebanese MPs fail for fifth time to elect president

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Lebanon’s divided parliament failed Thursday to elect a new president for the fifth time, with the post vacant since the mandate of Michel Aoun expired last month.

Michel Moawad, whose father Rene Moawad served as president, was the frontrunner in the 128-seat parliament with 44 votes on Thursday, still far short of the two-thirds majority – or 86 ballots – needed to win.

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Parliament is split between supporters of the Lebanese Hezbollah and its opponents, neither having a clear majority.

Hezbollah rejects the candidacy of Moawad, who is seen as close to the United States, and calls for a “compromise candidate” to be found.

In the meantime, most lawmakers from its bloc spoilt their ballots.

“Neither camp can impose a candidate, A compromise must be found and an understanding reached on a candidate acceptable to everyone,” deputy speaker Elias Bou Saab told AFP in an interview on Tuesday.

Aoun’s own election in 2016 followed a more than two-year vacancy at the presidential palace as lawmakers made 45 failed attempts to reach consensus on a candidate.

But this year’s vacancy comes as Lebanon is gripped by an unprecedented financial crisis that has pushed much of the population into poverty since 2019.

During a vacancy, the powers of the president fall to the cabinet.

But since May Lebanon has had only a caretaker government that lacks the authority to push through the sweeping reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund as a condition for releasing billions of dollars in emergency loans.

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