Michel Aoun, the former commander of the Lebanese army, has been elected president. Lebanon had been unable to elect a president for more than two years now. There were 45 sessions that failed to elect a new president as infighting led to no quorum.
While Aoun, who is 81, won the support of 83 MPs he needed only 65 to win the presidency. There are 128 members in the legislature. Fireworks echoed across Beirut on the announcement that Aoun had won. Lebanon has a power-sharing agreement in which the president is required to be a Maronite Christian as is Auon.
Saad Hariri, the former prime minister, who also heads the largest bloc in parliament said earlier this month that he would support Aoun. This helped Aoun win. Hariri's support for Aoun is a big setback for Saudi Arabia who had backed Hariri and his allies in years of struggle against Hezbollah. Hezbollah supported Aoun. Many see the decision as a sign of diminishing influence of Saudi Arabia in Lebanon and an increase in the influence of Iran and Hezbollah.
Y-net complains that the Aoun presidency is bad for Israel: "As far as Israel is concerned, it will mean quite the headache: Iran will expand its foothold in Lebanon, no one will bother to demand that Hezbollah disarm and hand its weapons over to the state, and the the Saudis will be furious, as Israel’s alert level concerning Lebanon will move one step up." Hariri has had his own troubles with Saudi Arabia due to financial difficulties with his Saudi-based construction firm, Saudi Oger. This has caused difficulties in financing his political network in Saudi Arabia.
Aoun is to meet with Lebanese MPs later this week and designate the member with greatest support among MP's as the Prime Minister. This is expected to be Hariri. Security had been tightened during the vote with helicopters flying overhead and cars were forbidden from entering much of central Beirut. There were metal detectors in streets near the parliament buildings. Aoun will be returning to the presidential palace exactly 26 years after he was forced out as army commander by forces loyal to a rival commander.
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Ken is a retired philosophy professor living in the boondocks of Manitoba, Canada, with his Filipina wife. He enjoys reading the news and writing articles. Politically Ken is on the far left of the political spectrum on many issues.