Beirut - Lebanon's parliament failed Thursday for a third time to elect a successor to President Michel Aoun, stoking fears of a political vacuum after his mandate expires at the end of the month.
Parliament speaker Nabih Berri called for another vote on Monday in the hope of overcoming long-running discord between political factions in crisis-hit Lebanon, already governed by a caretaker cabinet.
Lawmaker Michel Moawad, son of former president Rene Moawad, emerged as a frontrunner when parliament first convened to vote on a new president last month, with lawmakers opposed to the powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah movement backing his candidacy.
But the 42 votes he received in Thursday's session fell well short of the 65 needed for election in the second round of voting. A total of 119 lawmakers from Lebanon's 128-seat parliament attended the session, but the quorum was lost before a second round could be held after some lawmakers walked out.
Fifty-five lawmakers cast blank ballots. "We are still working on uniting the ranks of the opposition," lawmaker Samy Gemayel, who has backed Moawad's candidacy, told reporters after the session.
"We are facing difficulties, but I hope that as the October 31 deadline approaches everyone will join forces." Hezbollah lawmaker Hassan Fadlallah told reporters before the vote that "there is no consensus and no comprehensive dialogue between the different blocs." Under Lebanon's longstanding confessional power-sharing system, the presidency is reserved for a Maronite Christian.
Aoun was elected in 2016 after a more than two-year vacancy at the presidential palace as lawmakers made 45 failed attempts to reach a consensus on a candidate.
The political deadlock has also scuppered efforts to form a new government since the outgoing cabinet's mandate expired in May, despite the country being gripped by its worst-ever financial crisis.
At the end of a short visit to Beirut last week, France's Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna urged the swift election of a new president to avoid further political turmoil. "Lebanon today cannot risk a power vacuum," she said. Since 2019, the Lebanese pound has lost more than 95 percent of its value against the dollar on the black market and poverty rates have climbed to cover most of the population.