January 31
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Already mired in a political and economic crisis, Lebanon has now also been left without a president after Michael Aoun's term expired, AFP reports.

Aoun's six-year term, which came to an end on Sunday, was marred by mass protests, a painful economic downturn and an August 2020 bombing that killed hundreds and destroyed neighborhoods in Beirut.

Today, led by an interim government, Lebanon is unable to implement the reforms needed to access billions of dollars from international creditors to save an economy in free fall since late 2019.

Aoun left the presidential palace on Sunday, one day before the end of his term, buoyed by several thousand supporters. Parliament has held four rounds of voting since last month, and no candidate has received enough support to succeed Aoun.

Without a dominant party in parliament, decisions such as electing a president, appointing a prime minister or forming a government can take months or even years of political bargaining, sometimes even leading to violence.

The president's authority passes to the Council of Ministers if he leaves office without a successor.

Aoun signed a decree Sunday formalizing the resignation of acting Prime Minister Najib Mikati's government.  The move exacerbates a months-long power struggle that has paralyzed the government.

Mikati said his government would continue as a caretaker as usual, but that this cabinet would meet only for "urgent matters."

Experts said this was part of an ongoing political struggle between Aoun and the prime minister.

The cabinet in the role of acting prime minister cannot make important decisions that could affect the fate of the country.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri can invite political parties to a national dialogue so they can agree on a new president, the lawmaker said on condition of anonymity.

But such initiatives have failed in the past.

So far, MP Michel Moawad, 50, has the most support in parliament, mostly from Hizbullah opponents. But without Hizbullah's support, Moawad's chances of becoming president are slim.

Gebran Bassil, 52, Aoun's son-in-law, is also a contender for president. Others have also nominated Joseph Aoun, commander-in-chief of the Lebanese army, as a potential presidential candidate.

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