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Lebanese lawmakers fail to elect president for 12th time

This image shows a view of birds flying over the Parliament of Lebanon building in Beirut. (Photo by Reuters)

Lebanese lawmakers have failed in their 12th attempt to elect a president and fill in the country's presidential vacuum.

Following seven months of political haggling and economic crisis, parliamentarians gathered together in a new legislative session with the aim to elect a new president on Wednesday, but neither candidate had enough support to get across the line.

The two main candidates competing for the position were former Finance Minister and IMF senior official Jihad Azour and former Interior Minister and Marada Movement head Suleiman Franjieh.

Azour garnered 59 votes and Frangieh 51 in the 128-seat parliament. All lawmakers showed up for the election, but many left the chamber after placing their ballots in the box and quorum was lost before a second round of voting -- where the winner only requires 65 ballots -- was able to go ahead.

Hezbollah member of Parliament Hassan Fadlallah said only "consensus" would bring about a successful presidential election.

"We don't impose (a candidate) on others, and we don't want them to impose (one) on us," Fadlallah told reporters before Wednesday's session.

Analysts said the vote risked further entrenching a political stalemate, dimming hopes of saving the economy after three years of meltdown.

"At this stage, the most likely scenario is a prolonged vacuum," analyst Karim Bitar said.

Azour, who is backed by the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) led by Gebran Bassil, was once labeled by FPM as a pawn in the alleged corrupt Sanioura government with a history of multiple financial scandals. Azour was the former Lebanese Minister of Finance between 2005 and 2008 under Fouad Al-Sanioura.

Frangieh, however, is a long-time ally of Lebanese resistance, and multiple groups including Hezbollah, and Syria.

By convention, the premiership is reserved for a Sunni Muslim and the post of parliament speaker goes to a Shia Muslim.

Frangieh, a former lawmaker and minister, had promised on Sunday to be "the president of all Lebanese."

Wednesday's failed session to choose a president came on the heels of 11 failed attempts to elect a new president.

Former President Michel Aoun's term ended in October of 2022 and since then, the nation's lawmakers have been unable to reach an agreement as to who should replace him and assume the presidency.

Since that time, according to Lebanese constitutional law, Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati's transitional cabinet, a caretaker government with limited powers, has been to some extent carrying out the duties of the president in the Lebanese government.

The political stalemate in Lebanon’s parliament has been exacerbated by destructive meddling by ill-wishing foreign states, particularly the United States.

Lebanon has been mired in a deep financial crisis since late 2019 which has caused its national currency, the Lebanese pound, to lose around 90 percent of its value against the USD, resulting in the collapse of Lebanon’s banking system.

The ensuing economic crisis has plunged a large portion of the Lebanese population into poverty.

In the meantime, many economists link the economic and financial crisis in Lebanon directly to debilitating sanctions that the United States and its allies have imposed on Lebanon over regional affairs as the West continues to play a detrimental role in the Arab state’s affairs.

The United States and France on Tuesday renewed calls for Lebanese lawmakers to cooperate and elect a new president.

French foreign ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre had urged lawmakers not to waste another opportunity and "take this date seriously."

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