BEIRUT — Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri on Monday called for a parliamentary session at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, June 14 to elect a new president of Lebanon.
The Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and the opposition officially endorsed former Finance Minister Jihad Azour for Lebanon's presidency over the weekend.
In its weekly statement released Monday afternoon, the Amal party asserted that Berri's call for an election session was "a clear response to all skeptics and accusations concerning the national and responsible role [Berri] played [in delaying elections]."
The statement emphasized Berri's "commitment to respect the constitution," and criticized "the other candidacy, which brings together opposing players," to demonstrate a "convergence of tactical interests" and expresses "a position of obstruction and sabotage." This dig appeared to target Jihad Azour.
"This [Azour's candidacy] is a practice of political defiance aimed at toppling Sleiman Frangieh's candidacy, which shows the negligence and narcissism [of the camp that supports him]," the statement continued.
All previous sessions dedicated to electing the next head of state have failed to elect a successor to Michel Aoun, whose mandate ended on Oct. 31. The first session took place on Sept. 29. To hold a session to elect a president, Parliament requires a quorum of two-thirds of MPs (86 out of 128). The same goes for the first round of the actual presidential election, according to Berri. Amal and Hezbollah MPs, as well as their allies, had withdrawn from the chamber after the first round of voting in all of the last 11 parliamentary sessions to elect a president — forcing a lack of quorum.
The opposition's presidential candidate, Michel Moawad, along with Forces of Change MPs and independent MPs, formally announced at a Sunday press conference their support for Azour, who serves as the head of the Middle East and Central Asia Department at the International Monetary Fund.
Moawad had also announced the withdrawal of his presidential candidacy, saying, "I decided to participate in reaching this intersection that led to the candidacy of Jihad Azour, and we will continue our battle without getting tired."
The endorsement followed the formal announcement by the FPM head Gebran Bassil on Saturday evening of his party's support for Azour as its preferred candidate, saying the FPM will vote for Azour "instead of casting a blank ballot," the state-run National News Agency reported.
These blocs' backing of Azour is aimed at blocking the road to Baabda for Marada leader Sleiman Frangieh, who is supported by Amal and Hezbollah.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah MP Hassan Fadlallah said Sunday that Azour is a "confrontation and challenge candidate," who "will not make it" to the presidency. Fadlallah added that Hezbollah "will prevent them [the parties opposed to it] from achieving their goals."
The country has been faced with a dual executive power vacuum for the first time in its history since the end of Aoun's mandate, with Najib Mikati's cabinet serving only in a caretaker capacity since it assumed the status following legislative elections in May 2022.