While Lebanon sinks day after day into an acute economic crisis, and the term of President Michel Aoun ends on October 31, the deputies began, on September 29, the process aimed at electing his successor. Given the divisions in Parliament, it is to be expected that the political confrontation over this post reserved for Maronite Christians will continue. During the last presidential elections, the land of the cedars remained without a president for 29 months.
The series of bank robberies committed by Lebanese savers seeking to recover their frozen savings for three years, which has attracted the attention of foreign media in recent weeks, has cast a shadow over the presidential elections currently taking place in Lebanon.
The non-renewable six-year term of the current president, former general Michel Aoun, which ended on October 31, the process began on September 29 in Parliament – where the 128 deputies have the constitutional power to elect the head of state – to replace him. Voting is secret and the President of the Republic is elected by a two-thirds majority in the first round and by an absolute majority in subsequent rounds.
As expected, the first parliamentary session was not successful. Given the divisions that reign within the political class, a consensus has not yet been found to elect Michel Aoun’s successor. The latter is so polarized that it is already quite incapable of agreeing to form a new government, to replace the one currently led by Prime Minister Najib Mikati, in charge of handling current affairs since May 22, the start date of the mandate. of the new Parliament…
“a formal exercise“
Thus, the majority of the 122 votes cast on September 29 were white (63 votes, including that of the current power made up of elected officials from Hezbollah and Michel Aoun’s party), while Michel Moawad, a Maronite deputy and son of President René Moawad assassinated in 1989 won 36 votes from the opposition ranks.
It should be noted that a voice was dedicated to Mahsa Amini, the young Iranian woman who died on September 16 in Tehran, after being arrested by the morality police for having worn the veil incorrectly, and whose death triggered the protest movement in courses in Iran. .
At the end of this first electoral session, described by the French-language daily L’Orient-le-Jour “as a purely formal exercise”, the President of Parliament, Nabih Berri, closed the session: the parliamentarians had left the Chamber causing quorum. failure. The new session, scheduled for Thursday, October 13, will surely lead to the same result.
According to the Constitution, if the election is not held during the last ten days of the incumbent president’s term, Parliament can no longer legislate because it is required to hold only presidential sessions.
Already facing the worst economic crisis in the country’s history on a daily basis, the Lebanese know that the presidential process can take a long time.
Very long even. Due to lack of agreement between the different political camps and political blockades, they had endured 29 months of institutional vacuum after the end of the mandate of former President Michel Sleiman, on May 25, 2014.
At that time, it was not until the 46th electoral session and the endless negotiations that the two-thirds quorum necessary to organize the vote was reached – that is, 86 of the 128 deputies – and that Michel Aoun, the pro-Hezbollah political ally, Iranian, to be elected on October 31, 2016.
A place reserved for Maronite Christians
The Taif Agreements, signed in 1989 in Saudi Arabia with the aim of ending fifteen years of war in Lebanon, transferred executive power to the Council of Ministers, limiting the prerogatives of the president.
For example, in matters of defense, the Head of State is designated as commander of the armed forces, but these are “subject to the Council of Ministers” according to the texts that have enshrined the principle of confessional and consociational democracy. that is, a political model based on the need to share power between different communities.
Officially, the Lebanese state has 18: Christians (Maronite, Greek Orthodox, Melkite Greek Catholic, Syrian Orthodox, Syrian Catholic, Assyrian, Chaldean, Coptic Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Armenian Catholic, Latin and Protestant), Muslim (Shia , Druze, Sunni, Ismaili and Alawites), as well as a Jewish community.
The formal representation of these religious communities in the Lebanese State (official and administrative functions) is organized in accordance with the National Pact of 1943, the year of the country’s independence. Sealed at the time between the Maronite and Sunni leaders of the country, this unwritten pact stipulates that the President of the Republic and the head of the army are always Christians -precisely Maronites- while the Prime Minister is Sunni and that the President of Parliament is member of the Shiite community.
Since Taif, the 128 MP seats have been shared equally between Muslims and Christians, and within these two confessional blocs the number of MPs elected is set according to the demographic weight of their community (Shiites have 27, Maronites 34). , fixed by the last census carried out… in 1932.
Constituted to promote consensus, the system has been hijacked over the years by the heavyweights of the political class, against whom the population rose up in 2019, which multiplied political blockades and erected political negotiation as a mode to rule
During the election of Michel Aoun, a camp, that of the former general and Hezbollah, his political ally, had managed to impose their candidate after having blocked the presidential election for a long time. Six years later, this same camp, which however lost the majority in the last legislative elections, is trying to promote the coming to power of the outgoing president’s son-in-law, former Foreign Minister Gebran Basil. The divisive profile of him is far from unanimous in Lebanon.
Therefore, a new armed struggle is likely to start and the time to agree on a compromise candidate to unblock the current situation will be lengthened. While more than 80% of the population lives below the poverty line according to the NGO Care, the Lebanese, more than ever, need their institutions to work at full speed.