President Michel Aoun is stepping down a day earlier than the end of his six-year term as parliament fails to agree on his successor.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun has left the presidential palace without a successor to replace him as the divided country struggles to recover from a years-long financial crisis.
Speaking to supporters outside Beirut’s Baabda presidential palace on Sunday, the 89-year-old Christian leader, who took office in 2016, said the Middle Eastern country was entering a new “chapter that requires tremendous effort.”
“Without these efforts, we cannot end our suffering. We cannot get our country back on its feet. We cannot save Lebanon from this deep abyss,” he told cheering supporters, leaving a day earlier than the end of his term.
Lebanon’s parliament has so far been unable to agree on who would take on the role – who has the power to sign bills, appoint new prime ministers and greenlight government formations before they are passed by parliament.
Lebanon is governed by an interim cabinet as Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati has been trying for six months to form a government.
“An Unlucky President”
Al Jazeera’s report on Ali Hashem from Baabda said people in the country had “mixed feelings” about Aoun’s six-year rule.
“Michel Aoun’s supporters say he was an unlucky president. His rivals … say he failed and was a big disappointment,” Hashem added.
“The era of Michel Aoun which will end on Monday will forever be remembered explosion at the port of Beirut in 2020 …and also the financial crisis and the protests that started in 2019. These are the main aspects of his legacy.
More than 220 people were killed and around 6,500 injured in the 2020 explosion. Some 300,000 homes were damaged or destroyed.
The 2019 financial crisis plunged more than 80% of the population into poverty and sparked the most widespread anti-government protests in recent history.
Aoun is a deeply divisive figure, adored by many Christians who saw him as their defender in Lebanon’s sectarian system, but accused by critics of fostering corruption and helping the Shiite armed group Hezbollah gain influence.
He got the presidency in 2016endorsed by both Hezbollah and rival Maronite Christian politician Samir Geagea in a deal that brought Sunni politician Saad al-Hariri back as prime minister.
During his final week at the palace, he signed a US-brokered deal delimiting Lebanon’s southern maritime border with Israel.
The son of a farmer from a suburb of Beirut, Aoun’s journey to the presidency began during the 1975-90 civil war, during which he served as commander of the Lebanese army and leader of a of the two rival governments.
He returned to Beirut after 15 years in exile, following the withdrawal of Syrian forces under international pressure following the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafic al-Hariri.
In 2006, his Free Patriotic Movement party formed an alliance with Hezbollah, which brought significant Christian support to the armed group. In his interview with Reuters news agency, Aoun credited Hezbollah for its “helpful” role in acting as a “deterrent” against any Israeli attack during the maritime border talks.