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Former general Michel Aoun elected president of Lebanon

A poster of Michel Aoun is displayed in Jdeidah on the outskirts of Beirut on October 31. Photograph: (AFP)

AFP Beirut, Beirut Governorate, Lebanon Oct 31, 2016, 12.50 PM (IST)

Lebanon's parliament on Monday elected former general Michel Aoun as president, ending a two-year-old political stalemate in the country.

The 81-year-old former army chief won the support of 83 lawmakers, which was well above the absolute majority of 65 needed to win. The president's post in Lebanon is reserved for a Maronite Christian who is elected by parliament.

The deeply divided parliament took four rounds of voting to elect Aoun. He failed to achieve the two-thirds majority necessary to win in the first round and a second round was repeated twice after the number of votes exceeded the 127 MPs present in the session, AFP reported.

Aaron's supporters carried out victory marches across the country to celebrate his victory, wearing the trademark orange of his Free Patriotic Movement party. In Beirut's majority-Christian neighbourhood of Ashrafiyeh, supporters launched fireworks and loosed volleys of celebratory gunfire even as he took the oath of office before lawmakers, AFP reported.


Finally, Lebanon has a president

Aoun's election ends a vacancy for the post since May 2014, when his predecessor Michel Sleiman's mandate ended. He has long eyed the presidency, and his candidacy has been backed from the beginning by the powerful Shiite Hezbollah movement after their surprise rapprochement in 2006.

The country's deeply divided political powers has thus far been unable to reach consensus on a candidate for president, but his victory became certain after two of his biggest political rivals offered him their support. They were Samir Geagea, leader of the Christian Lebanese Forces, and Sunni former premier, Saad Hariri.

Hariri, who Aoun is expected to name prime minister, said his endorsement was necessary to "protect Lebanon, protect the (political) system, protect the state and protect the Lebanese people".

But the powerful parliament speaker Nabih Berri and his bloc opposed Aoun's nomination, and made no secret of their displeasure, AFP reported.

"Your election should be a beginning, not an end," Berri said, after Aoun's victory was declared. "This parliament is ready to extend its hand to lift up Lebanon. Long live the president, long live Lebanon."

"I swear to God the great, that I will respect the constitution and its laws, and preserve the independence of the Lebanese nation and peace on its lands," he said.

(WION with inputs from AFP) 


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