Lebanon parliament convenes, Aoun set to become president

Laura Christensen
November 1, 2016

There was some hope, even among his many detractors, that his election would help end the country's long-running political crisis.

Christian leader Michel Aoun, a former army commander and strong ally of the militant Hezbollah group, was widely expected to win the vote. He garnered 83 votes out of 127 lawmakers present at the session.

"We haven't voted in a long time. We're learning again", Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri joked of the almost two-hour process. Celebrations will also be held on Monday night in Dbayeh, a northern suburb of the capital Beirut, and in several public places.

"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 T-shirt, the color of the Hezbollah flag.

Aoun, who has been a fixture in Lebanese politics for the past four decades, is a divisive figure, often described as mercurial, temperamental and obsessed with becoming president.

In January 2016, Aoun proceeded to sign another contract with Samir Geagea, the leader of the Lebanese Forces, ending a somewhat primordial enmity which included a mini Christian civil war between the two in the late 80s.

The country's presidential post had been vacant for more than two years since Michel Suleiman stepped down from power when his term ended in 2014.

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Parliamentarian Alain Aoun - Michel Aoun's nephew - refers to the presidential candidate as "patient, stubborn, and persevering".

Sami Atallah, executive director of the Beirut-based think tank, the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, told Radio Sputnik that an alignment of regional and domestic interests finally enabled the election of Aoun after 45 parliamentary sessions.

In the end, it took an about-face by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Lebanon's Saudi-backed main Sunni leader, who formally endorsed Aoun for president last week - reportedly in exchange for Aoun promising him the position of prime minister. The FPM is the biggest Christian party in the Lebanese parliament.

Aoun will now have to bring Berri, a longtime rival, back into the fold.

"There's another group which feels very alienated by his election, because they don't find him to be representing their interests, so it's a bit polarized, there's no consensus about Aoun's candidacy", Atallah said.

There is, however, one party that comes out of the maneuvering on top. Saudi Arabia had backed Hariri and his allies through years of political struggle with Hezbollah and its allies.

Aoun supported Western moves to end Syria's dominance, including the 2003 U.S. Syria Accountability Act, and U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559 passed in 2004, which called for free and fair presidential elections, the withdrawal of foreign forces, and the disarmament of all militias in Lebanon.

Other reports by My Hot News

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