Lebanon’s 89-year-old President Michel Aoun left the presidential palace on Sunday, marking an end to his tumultuous term that has seen economic meltdown and a deadly Beirut port blast.
His exit paves the way for a Constitutional crisis with no one next lined up to take over the presidency and no formal Cabinet leading the government.
There have been four unsuccessful attempts to elect his successor, either casting mostly blank ballots or failing to show up to the session meaning it ends with no quorum. Currently, Lebanon is being run by a caretaker cabinet.
prior demitting his office, Aoun signed a US-brokered deal delineating Lebanon’s southern maritime border with Israel in his final week at the palace.
Aoun, a Christian and a divisive figure, secured his presidency in 2016 after getting support from Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah and rival Maronite Christian politician Samir Geagea in a deal that brought then-leading Sunni politician Saad al-Hariri back as prime minister.
Aoun’s ascension to the top post was welcomed by many Christians at the time who viewed him as their defender in Lebanon’s sectarian system, but his reign was marred by corruption and scandals.
In his six-year term, Lebanon saw its forces fighting off Islamist militants on the Syrian border in 2017 with Hezbollah’s help, a new electoral law passed in 2018 and top energy companies begin exploratory drilling in offshore blocks in 2020.
But one of the most testing moments in his presidency came when the Beirut port blast occurred in 2020, killing over 2020 people.
The 89-year-old later said that he was aware of the chemical stored in the port and claimed to have asked authorities to take care of it, but his response was widely criticised by people who said that he should have done more.
In an interview to Reuters on Saturday, Aoun said that his presidential powers were not enough to address the economic crisis.
“He was by far the worst president in Lebanon’s history” Michel Meouchi, a lawyer and father told Reuters. “I prefer a void in the presidency to him.”
(With inputs from agencies)
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