Lebanon MPs nominate IMF official for vacant presidency

Jihad Azour's nomination comes seven months after the position became vacant because of political turmoil

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Jihad Azour. — Reuters file
Jihad Azour. — Reuters file


Published: Sun 4 Jun 2023, 10:26 PM

Lebanese lawmakers on Sunday nominated Jihad Azour, an International Monetary Fund regional director and former minister, for president, with the position still vacant for seven months because of political turmoil.

Former president Michel Aoun's term expired last October with no successor lined up.

Since then, there have been 11 parliamentary votes to try to name a new president, but bitter divisions have prevented anyone from garnering enough support to succeed Aoun.

Crisis-hit Lebanon has been run by a caretaker government with limited powers since legislative elections in May 2022 resulted in no side with a clear majority.

On Sunday, lawmaker Mark Daou read a statement on behalf of a group of 32 legislators, endorsing Azour after weeks of negotiations "as a candidate that is not considered provocative by any political factor in the country".

The same MPs had previously backed another presidential candidate, parliamentarian Michel Moawad, who on Sunday announced he was withdrawing his nomination and backing Azour.

Azour, the IMF's Middle East and Central Asia director, served as Lebanon's finance minister from 2005 to 2008.

He has yet to officially announce a presidential bid.

The international community has urged Lebanese officials to fill the vacant presidency, which would allow the country, mired in a crippling economic crisis since 2019, to carry out reforms needed to unlock much needed IMF loans.

Hezbollah lawmaker Hassan Fadlallah called Azour's nomination "a waste of time", according to remarks carried by local media, insisting that "the candidate of confrontation" will not be elected president.

The movement's key Christian ally, the Free Patriotic Movement, said it would support Azour.

With no clear majority for any candidate, it is unclear when parliament speaker Nabih Berri might call a new vote.

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