06:55 GMT +313 December 2018
Listen Live
    Newly elected Lebanese president Michel Aoun sits on the president's chair inside the presidential palace in Baabda, near Beirut, Lebanon October 31, 2016

    Lebanese President's Election Reveals 'Who is Running the Show' in Middle East

    © REUTERS / Aziz Taher
    Middle East
    Get short URL

    The pattern of support for Lebanon's new President reveals the cleavages within Lebanese and regional politics, Sami Atallah of the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies told Radio Sputnik.

    On Monday Lebanese MP's voted to elect former army commander General Michel Aoun to be the country's next president, ending more than two years of political deadlock.

    Lebanon had been without a President since Michel Nouhad Suleiman stepped down from office in 2014, and rival factions had been unable to agree on a candidate.

    Sami Atallah, executive director of the Beirut-based think tank, the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, told Radio Sputnik that an alignment of regional and domestic interests finally enabled the election of Aoun after 45 parliamentary sessions.

    "The supporters of Michel Aoun are very happy, because they feel he should have been president way earlier, so one group of citizens is really excited and happy, they feel this represents them."

    "There's another group which feels very alienated by his election, because they don't find him to be representing their interests, so it's a bit polarized, there's no consensus about Aoun's candidacy," Atallah said.

    Aoun, a Maronite Christian, took office after making agreements with rival groups including the Christian group Lebanese Forces, the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah, and the Sunni Muslim Future Movement.

    According to reports, the Future Movement's leader, Saad Hariri, will become Lebanon's Prime Minister as a result of the deal.

    Lebanon's political system works on the principle of "confessional distribution" to distribute parliamentary seats, in an effort to represent the country's diversity. The President has to be a Maronite Christian, the Speaker of the House must be a Shiite, and the Prime Minister has to be a Sunni Muslim.

    "This quota system ensures that the different communities are actually politically represented. Having said that, it's not very democratic in the sense that there are many other cleavages in Lebanon which are not represented within that sort of system," Atallah said.

    The analyst believes the most pressing task facing the new President is reform of electoral law, in order to better represent the different segments of society.

    The reform which Aoun and his likely Prime Minister Hariri put forward to tackle this issue will be a "litmus test" of their commitment to change, he said.

    Atallah said that Auon has received greater support from parties closer to Iran, than from parties with ties to Syria.

    "Even Saudi Arabia and the Americans have conceded his presidency, in one way or another. It was actually more of a win for Iran over Syria, in terms of actually getting him to the presidential palace."

    "Clearly there are some signals about who is running the show right now, in the sense of the power of getting him to the presidency, and the Iranian power over the Syrian," Atallah said.

    Community standardsDiscussion
    Comment via FacebookComment via Sputnik