Lebanon's Aoun leaves presidential palace as power vacuum looms

© Dalati Nohra via AP

Michel Aoun was vacating Lebanon's presidential palace on Sunday amid acclaim from his supporters a day before his mandate expires without a designated successor, threatening a new power vacuum in the crisis-torn country.

A few thousand well-wishers gathered to pay tribute to the Maronite Christian former army chief and head of the Free Patriotic Movement which is allied with the powerful pro-Iranian Shiite movement Hezbollah.

FPM supporters, some brandishing portraits of the outgoing head of state widely referred to as "General", flocked to the presidential palace in the hills above the capital Beirut, where some had spent the night in tents, to accompany him to his private home.

"We have come to escort the president at the end of his mandate, to tell him that we are with him and that we will continue the struggle by his side," said teacher Joumana Nahed.

Lebanese lawmakers have tried but failed four times in a month to agree on electing a successor after Aoun's six-year term ends Monday, stoking fears of a deepening political crisis.

The term of Aoun, who is in his late 80s, was marred by mass popular protests, a severe economic crisis and currency collapse, and the August 2020 portside blast of ammonium nitrate that killed hundreds and laid waste to swathes of the capital.

Neither the Hezbollah camp, the powerful armed movement which dominates political life in Lebanon, nor its opponents have the clear majority to impose a candidate to succeed him.


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