“Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun recently vacated the presidency after six years in office, leaving behind constitutional chaos and a political vacuum at the top of a collapsing country. Five sessions in parliament have failed to elect a successor due to ceaseless bickering among a fractured ruling establishment and the unabashed obstruction of this vote by Iran-backed Hezbollah, the main power broker in Lebanon.

“While this isn’t a first for Lebanon, disputes over a caretaker’s powers bode badly for a government that needs to take critical actions to forestall the free fall toward which Lebanon is headed. Technically, a cabinet in a caretaker role cannot issue decrees or make important decisions, such as jumpstarting oil and gas exploration that would help unlock foreign investment and generate sources of income for economic recovery. Lebanon and Israel recently reached a historic agreement that demarcates Lebanon’s disputed southern maritime border after years of hostilities.

“Lebanon’s parliament can now do nothing except elect a president; to be successful, a candidate needs to first secure two-thirds of MPs’ support. Lebanon has been without a functioning government since the May parliamentary elections as factions, once again, were unable to agree on its composition. And the past six years are anything if not an indication that no president can be elected without the backing of Hezbollah, which holds a majority of seats in parliament.

“Aoun himself took office in 2016 amid turmoil that had left Lebanon without a president for more than two years. A deeply divisive figure, he returned after 15 years in exile, thanks to an unholy alliance with Hezbollah. Aoun’s presidency was marred by political crises and the worst economic and social catastrophe in decades — made possible by a nationally-sponsored Ponzi scheme, dubbed “deliberate depression” by the World Bank, whereby private banks offered exorbitant interest rates to big depositors for money then lent out to the state, leading to soaring public debt.  …”

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