BEIRUT — The United States called on Lebanon to elect a president, end the “deadlock” and “get the job done” on Wednesday during a press conference for State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller.
“We are concerned that members of the parliament left the chamber to prevent further rounds of voting, to deny a quorum,” Miller said.
MPs gathered on Wednesday for a vote that was largely contested between IMF official Jihad Azour and Marada Movement leader Sleiman Frangieh. There was no winner.
Hezbollah and Amal Movement MPs left the chamber after the first round of voting, meaning the quorum was not reached for a second round.
Lebanon has been without a president for more than seven months, since Michel Aoun's six-year term ended on Oct. 31.
Azour, who is supported by the majority of Hezbollah's opponents, obtained 59 votes, while Frangieh, whose candidacy is supported by the Amal-Hezbollah tandem, got 51. A further six deputies cast their ballots for former minister Ziad Baroud (seven, according to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri), eight for "New Lebanon," one for army chief Joseph Aoun and another one for contractor Jihad al-Arab. A blank vote was also counted.
Berri has not set a date for the next election session.
“After more than seven months without a president, the Lebanese people deserve more than a single vote. We believe, as we have said before, that they urgently need a president who can…enact reforms to unlock IMF support, and for this to happen, Parliament must continue holding electoral sessions in the coming days and weeks to get that job done,” Miller said.
A new report from Lebanese think tank The Policy Initiative and US-based think tank Century International argues that Lebanon is “on track to get nothing” from its negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to receive $3 billion in financing.
“The political paralysis in Lebanon is an issue that the – that Lebanese leaders must resolve. That’s why we’ve urged them to continue to meet to work on this. They’ve been stalemated for some time. We believe that Lebanon’s leaders and their elites must stop putting their own interests and ambitions above the people of their country,” Miller said.