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FPM, LF and opposition all back Azour, sexual assault allegations, teachers’ strike: Everything you need to know to start your Monday

Here’s what happened over the weekend and what to expect today, Monday, June 5

FPM, LF and opposition all back Azour, sexual assault allegations, teachers’ strike: Everything you need to know to start your Monday

Sleiman Frangieh and Jihad Azour. (Credit: Twitter)

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Zgharta MP and former presidential candidate Michel Moawad yesterday withdrew his candidacy and joined opposition parties, the Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement in endorsing the presidential candidacy of former Finance Minister and International Monetary Fund senior official Jihad Azour. During the same press conference, MP Mark Daou expressed “on behalf of 32 MPs” his support for Azour, who he said would receive enough votes to be elected, and called on Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri to convene MPs for a presidential election session. No presidential vote has taken place since January. The same day, Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah described Azour as a “confrontation and challenge candidate” who would not be elected, while Daou denied this classification and described him as a consensus candidate. FPM leader Gebran Bassil on Saturday endorsed Azour’s presidential candidacy. Earlier Saturday, al-Sharq al-Awsat published an interview with Berri who said he will convene Parliament for a 12th presidential election session “immediately” when Azour’s candidacy “becomes serious.” The announcements confirmed talk that the FPM, the Lebanese Forces and other parties opposed to the Amal Movement and Hezbollah’s candidate, Marada Movement leader Sleiman Frangieh, have rallied around Azour. Last month, Berri called for the election of a president by June 15, so that the president can have a say on the appointment of the next central bank chief. Meanwhile, the presidential vacuum ongoing since Oct. 31 has interfered with the functioning of the caretaker cabinet and Parliament’s ability to legislate.

Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry said Saturday that it will send a delegation to France to investigate rape and intentional violence allegations against Lebanese Ambassador Rami Adwan. The ministry’s announcement came a day after its French counterpart told AFP it considers “it necessary for the Lebanese authorities to lift the immunity of the Lebanese ambassador in Paris.” Adwan faces accusations from two former embassy employees with whom he had intimate relationships, during which they say he exploited his position as their superior and subjected them to psychological, physical and sexual assaults. “My client denies all accusations of assault in any form: verbal, moral, sexual," Adwan's lawyer, Karim Beylouni, told AFP. In April, the Foreign Ministry recalled Lebanon’s ambassador to Ukraine, Ali Daher, to Beirut amid an investigation into alleged embezzlement at the embassy there.

Public school teachers are scheduled to begin a one-week strike today to protest deteriorating living conditions. The teachers are demanding the restoration of their salaries’ value, the payment of overdue transportation allowances and the continued payment of conditional, attendance-based bonuses during summer when no in-person teaching takes place. After a monthslong strike demanding improved compensation, public school teachers returned to classrooms in March following the government’s approval of fuel subsidies. After an underfunded and understaffed start to the school year in public institutions, its conclusion is marred with uncertainty over the status of official exams and significant cuts to curriculums.

The Beirut Court of Appeal attorney general, Judge Ziad Abi Haidar, summoned William Noun and Peter Bou Saab for a hearing on Wednesday over alleged “vandalism” during a protest Thursday against the paralysis of the investigation into the Aug. 4, 2020 Beirut port explosion. A lawyer representing Noun and Bou Saab, whose relatives were killed in the explosion, told L’Orient Today that they plan to attend the hearing. On Thursday, relatives of the port blast victims protested outside the Beirut Justice Palace and threatened to escalate their demonstrations and hold weekly sit-ins until the probe progresses. In January, over a dozen people who participated in a similar protest outside the Beirut Justice Palace were called for questioning, while Noun’s brief arrest, also tied to comments allegedly threatening the judiciary, at the time caused outrage. The blast probe is frozen pending judicial appointments enabling rulings on complaints against lead investigator Tarek Bitar.

Bekaa Governor Kamal Abu Jaoudeh ordered an investigation into a condemned quarry where rock blasting, according to Tony Nemer, professor of geology and seismology at the American University of Beirut, “most probably” induced an earthquake. Zahle and Bekaa residents on Saturday reported hearing a loud blast, seeing smoke and feeling a strong tremor, according to Nemer and L'Orient Today's correspondent in the region. The 3.0-magnitude earthquake could have been triggered by a detonation near a fault line, Nemer said, noting that he could not rule out natural causes without “the seismogram from [the National Center for Geophysics in Bhannes].” Nemer urged authorities to take action because “such actions may trigger earthquakes with unimaginable consequences,” adding that similar “human-induced seismicity” occurred last month after a detonation in a quarry on the outskirts of Kesrouan led to two earthquakes.

In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from over the weekend: “Digital wallets, a new way to bypass banks in Lebanon?”

Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz

Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.Zgharta MP and former presidential candidate Michel Moawad yesterday withdrew his candidacy and joined opposition parties, the Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement in endorsing the presidential candidacy of former Finance Minister and International Monetary Fund senior official Jihad Azour. During the same press conference,...