This Monday, Lebanon took the first step to ending the political paralysis that has gripped the country for a long time. Lebanon’s parliament elected a president for the country. The office had been vacant for more than two years, amid political turmoil. But the country could be seeing a new day with a new head of state. Parliament’s choice for the country is Michel Aoun, a former army commander. Now, Aoun has to restore stability to the Middle-Eastern country. However, what this could mean for the region remains to be seen. Since Michel Aoun is a supporter of Shi’a militant group Hezbollah.
Michel Aoun Is Lebanon’s New President
The new president of Lebanon, Michel Aoun, is 81 years old. He has a long military career behind him. One that includes the final stages of the Lebanese civil war. Also, he is a strong ally of Hezbollah. Michel Aoun has a difficult task ahead of him. He has to form a government with enough political support to run the country. But what he has to work with right now are various unruly political factions that do not want to work together. Should he accomplish a political consensus, Michel Aoun has many issues to deal with immediately.
The new government will be facing many difficult challenges. One of them is the situation of the Syrian refugees. Since the conflict in Syria started five years ago, many Syrians have fled from the neighboring country. Among other countries in the region, like Turkey and Jordan, Lebanon has taken in a disproportionately large number of Syrian refugees. More than 1 million are now in Lebanon, awaiting a solution to their situation. But the country is ill-equipped to deal with such a large number of refugees, lacking in appropriate infrastructure.
Hezbollah Receives a Boost from Aoun’s Election
Michel Aoun is a Maronite Christian. The Maronite Christians are 22 percent of the population in Lebanon. The terms of an unwritten agreement between political and religious leaders in Lebanon say that the president of the country has to be a Maronite Christian. Michel Aoun enjoys wide support among the educated and Christian demographic in Lebanon. But he is considered a divisive figure for the part that he played in the Lebanese civil war.
Another thing that makes Michel Aoun an unpopular figure is the way he changes alliances. His close ties to Hezbollah raise concerns with many. The Lebanese Parliament electing Michel Aoun gave a boost to Hezbollah in the country. The militant group is already the most powerful military force in the country with a strong political wing. Also, Aoun’s ties to Hezbollah strengthen the position of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an ally of the Shiite Lebanese group.
Some feel that Michel Aoun becoming the new Lebanese president is a win for the Shiite, pro-Iranian side in the country. But Aoun’s victory is not so clear cut. After all, his election didn’t exactly go without a hitch. The session in the Lebanese Parliament was chaotic and filled with tension. There were several rounds of voting. That was necessary because each time, there were extra ballots in the ballot box. The situation was resolved with a transparent ballot box. Also, two members of parliament stood by the ballot box to make sure no extra ballots appear again.
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