Lebanon’s parliament has elected Michel Aoun as president, ending a political stand-off that has left the post empty for more than two years. The newly-appointed president, a Maronite Christian, vowed to protect Lebanon from “regional fires” – a reference to the conflict in Syria. Mr Aoun was backed by the powerful Shia Islamist group, Hezbollah.
His candidacy was blocked by the rival, Sunni-dominated Future Movement until a deal was struck earlier this month. It will reportedly see the Future Movement’s leader, Saad Hariri, become prime minister. Mr Aoun, an 81-year-old former army general, secured 83 votes in the 128-seat chamber when MPs convened for their 46th attempt to choose a head of state.
The stalemate has paralysed Lebanon’s government, which is struggling to deal with deep divisions over the five-year civil war in neighbouring Syria and the arrival of more than one million refugees. Lebanon has been without a head of state since Michel Suleiman stepped down at the end of his term in May 2014.
The country’s complex power-sharing system stipulates that the president should always be a Maronite, Lebanon’s largest Christian denomination. The prime minister is a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of parliament a Shia Muslim.