Lebanon fails for the third time to elect a president amid the worst financial crisis in its history

The Lebanese parliament failed for the third time on Thursday in choosing a successor to President Michel Aoun, fueling fears of a political vacuum after his term expires at the end of the month.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri called for another vote on Monday in hopes of overcoming long-standing discord between political factions in crisis-hit Lebanon, which is already ruled by an interim cabinet.

Lawmaker Michel Moawad, the son of former President Rene Moawad, emerged as the favorite when parliament first met to vote for a new president last month, and lawmakers opposed to the powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah movement endorsed his candidacy.

But the 42 votes he received in Thursday’s session fell well short of the 65 needed for election in the second round of voting.

A total of 119 lawmakers from the 128-seat Lebanese parliament attended the session, but the quorum was lost before a second round could be held after some lawmakers walked out.

Fifty-five lawmakers cast blank votes.

“We are still working to unite the ranks of the opposition,” lawmaker Samy Gemayel, who has backed Moawad’s candidacy, told reporters after the session.

“We are facing difficulties, but I hope that as the deadline of October 31 approaches, everyone will join forces.”

Hezbollah lawmaker Hassan Fadlallah told reporters before the vote that “there is no consensus or comprehensive dialogue between the different blocs.”

Under Lebanon’s old confessional power-sharing system, the presidency is reserved for a Maronite Christian.

Aoun was elected in 2016 after a more than two-year vacancy in the presidential palace when lawmakers made 45 unsuccessful attempts to reach a consensus on a candidate.

The political deadlock has also scuttled efforts to form a new government since the outgoing cabinet’s term expired in May, even though the country is mired in the worst financial crisis in its history.

At the end of a brief visit to Beirut last week, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna urged the speedy election of a new president to avoid further political turmoil.

“Lebanon today cannot risk a power vacuum,” he said.

Since 2019, the Lebanese pound has lost more than 95 percent of its value against the dollar on the black market, and poverty rates have risen to cover the majority of the population.

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