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In the midst of Lebanon’s financial crisis, Michel Aoun resigns

In the midst of Lebanon’s financial crisis, Michel Aoun resigns

In the midst of Lebanon’s financial crisis, Michel Aoun resigns

In the midst of Lebanon’s financial crisis, Michel Aoun resigns

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  • Lebanon’s president, Michel Aoun, vacates the presidential palace on Sunday.
  • The position has the authority to approve government formations prior to a vote by parliament.
  • Lebanon is currently run by a caretaker ministry, as it was for half of Aoun’s term. Aoun’s journey to the presidency started during Lebanon’s civil war.
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The 89-year-old Christian president of Lebanon, Michel Aoun, vacates the presidential palace on Sunday, leaving a gap at the top of a crumbling state. He presided over Lebanon’s catastrophic financial collapse and the deadly Beirut port blast.

The position, which has the authority to approve government formations prior to a vote by parliament, appoint new prime ministers, and sign legislation into law, has yet to have a replacement chosen by parliament.

Since the premier-designate has been attempting to form a government for six months, Lebanon is currently run by a caretaker ministry, as it was for more than half of Aoun’s term in power.

Dozens of Aoun’s followers arrived at Baabda Palace to bid him farewell. They carried photographs of him both as president and as an army officer from decades past and wore the orange of his Free Patriotic Movement party.

A 73-year-old man who was still wearing the army uniform he used to fight alongside Aoun in the civil war told media that he wished Aoun could serve another three years in power.

Aoun had her support since she was eight years old, according to Therese Younes, a 16-year-old who had travelled with other youngsters, and she was sad to see him go.

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“If I was 18 years old, I would have left the country. There’s no Lebanon left after Michel Aoun,” said Younes.

Aoun is a notoriously polarising figure, loved by many Christians who saw him as their protector in Lebanon’s sectarian system but accused by others of supporting corruption and assisting the militant group Hezbollah in gaining power.

In a compromise that reinstated Saad al-Hariri as prime minister, Aoun won the presidency in 2016 with the support of Hezbollah and rival Maronite Christian politician Samir Geagea.

In the six years that followed, Hezbollah assisted the Lebanese army in its struggle against jihadist extremists on the Syrian border in 2017, a new electoral legislation was adopted in 2018, and major energy companies started exploratory drilling in offshore areas in 2020.

He agreed to a settlement defining Lebanon’s southern maritime border with Israel during his final week in the palace, which was negotiated by the United States.

His supporters have praised these accomplishments, but his detractors claim that they are insignificant in light of the 2019 financial crisis, which has plunged more than 80% of the population into poverty and given rise to numerous anti-government protests.

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The devastating blast at the Beirut port in 2020 that claimed more than 220 lives also served as a reminder of Aoun’s administration. Later, Aoun claimed that he had been aware of the chemicals kept there and had forwarded the case to other authorities for action. His failure was blamed by the families of the victims.

In an interview with media channel on Saturday, he claimed that the scope of his presidential powers was insufficient to confront the financial crisis.

“He was by far the worst president in Lebanon’s history” said Michel Meouchi, a lawyer and father. “I prefer a void in the presidency to him.”

Aoun’s journey to the presidency started during Lebanon’s civil war, from 1975 to 1990, when he was the army’s commander and the leader of one of the two opposing governments.

After spending 15 years in exile, he returned to Beirut once Syrian forces retreated in response to international pressure in 2005, the year of the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.

The FPM joined forces with Hezbollah in 2006, giving the armed group crucial Christian support.

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Aoun praised Hezbollah for playing a “useful” role in serving as a “deterrent” against any Israeli assault during the maritime border negotiations in his interview with media channel.

One day before his term officially ends, he claimed his exit on Sunday was not the end of his political career.

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