In Brief: Lebanon enters new political crisis with no president

Haidar AlmoqdadCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Following a series of years-long crises, Lebanon has entered a new period of instability following the end of President Michel Aoun’s term without a successor having been chosen.

Aoun’s six-year term, which ended on Sunday, saw mass protests, a huge economic downturn, and the explosion at Beirut’s port in August 2020 which killed hundreds and destroyed much of the city.

Now with a caretaker government, Lebanon appears unable to enact the much-needed reforms that would allow access to billions of dollars from international lenders to save an economy in crisis since 2019.

The complex process to determine Aoun’s successor, a decision made by Lebanon’s sect-based parliament, failed to settle on a candidate in four rounds of voting in the last month.

Some parliamentarians accused the Iran-backed terrorist organisation Hezbollah, which controls 15 seats itself, of obstructing the vote to negotiate with other blocs.

Similar tactics were employed by Hezbollah following the last election, which saw Lebanon left without a president for more than two years before Aoun’s victory in 2016.

With no dominant party in parliament – currently made up of 36 separate groupings in a 128-seat legislature – basic constitutional decisions like electing a president, naming a prime minister and forming a government can take months or even years of negotiation, sometimes leading to violence.