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Lebanon political crisis deepens as president leaves office

October 30, 2022

Lebanese President Michael Aoun is leaving office without a designated successor in place. With no president and a caretaker government at the helm, Lebanon is now hurtling into the political unknown.

Lebanon's outgoing head of state, Michel Aoun,
President Aoun's six-year term was marred by mass protests, the deadly Beirut port blast and a spiraling financial crisisImage: Mohamed Azakir/REUTERS

Lebanon embarked on an uncertain political future on Sunday after President Michel Aoun left office without a successor.

During Aoun's term in office, Lebanon experienced several crises — from mass protests, to the deadly 2020 blast at a Beirut port, to the country's severe financial crisis.

The Mediterranean country now only has a caretaker government with limited powers, raising concerns about further political turmoil.

President's departure leaves political vacuum

Due to deep divisions in Lebanon's political parties, no successor to the president has been named. Lawmakers have tried and failed four times in the past month to elect a new president.

Aoun, whose six-year term officially ends at midnight, warned that weeks of "constitutional chaos" lay ahead for the country.

Hundreds of supporters took to the streets to bid the president farewell. They waved flags and held large portraits of the outgoing head of state.

Prior to leaving the presidential palace, Aoun sharply criticized the country's judiciary and central bank governor — saying they were to blame for the country's financial crisis.

"The judiciary is not performing its role and the culprits are still outside court," the 87-year-old outgoing leader said, addressing his supporters.

"Today a phase ends and another begins, which requires an effort and a lot of work so that we can end our crises," Aoun added. 

He also signed a decree saying he accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Mikati's caretaker government.

Mikati released a statement shortly afterwards saying his caretaker Cabinet would continue to perform its duties in line with the constitution.

Aoun's opponents have blamed the outgoing Christian president and his allies, the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement, for worsening the country's political and economic crises.

Lebanon's drinking water crisis

What does this mean for Lebanon's political crisis?

While this is not the first time that a president has left office in Lebanon without a successor in place, it is the first time that the country only has a caretaker government and no head of state.

Under Lebanon's constitution, the president's powers as head of state fall to the Council of Ministers if he leaves office without a successor.

However, a caretaker cabinet is limited in its powers, and may not be able to make major decisions for the country.

This has led to concerns that the power vacuum in the country could further delay talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that would see the crisis-hit country receive $3 billion (€3.01 billion) in financial assistance.

Lebanon has been stuck in a financial crisis for the past three years that has seen prices soar for basic goods and has left a three fourths of the population in poverty.

The World Bank described the financial meltdown in Lebanon as the world's most severe since the mid-1800s.

rs/jcg (AP, dpa)

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