Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces General Joseph Aoun meets with US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland.
According to Arabic media reports on 25 November, Lebanese diplomatic sources leaked information saying that the US and other western powers “do not mind” postponing general elections set to take place on March 2022, on the condition that legislators name Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) Commander Joseph Aoun as the country’s next president.
The pro-March 14 Alliance Al-Liwaa newspaper reports that there is a regional, international and Arab consensus on Aoun, adding that France and the Vatican do not object to the election of the US-backed commander as president.
These leaks are indicative of a possible postponement of the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections, insinuating that they would not be held on time amid the current political standoff between pro-US factions and movements belonging to the Resistance Axis in Lebanon’s political sphere.
Al-Liwaa also cites a diplomatic source within the pro-Hezbollah March 8 alliance as saying that “if they continue with this political charade, there will be no elections in March or May.” The quoted official was referring to the pressure to ensure Joseph Aoun’s presidency by the US and its allies in Lebanon.
The current term of the President of the Lebanese Republic, Michel Aoun (no relation), is set to expire in October 2022. He has opposed delaying elections, suggesting he may refuse to sign a measure enabling this.
The government led by Prime Minister Najib Mikati, formed in September after a year of convoluted negotiations among Lebanon’s many various political parties, has struggled to carry out much of its business due to the various crises gripping the Levantine nation.
The government has not met for more than 40 days, hampered by a push by the Hezbollah resistance movement and its allies to remove the judge probing the disastrous Beirut port blast in August 2020 that brought down the previous government.
On top of this, government officials have been unable or unwilling to provide data requests from the consultancy firm Alvarez & Marsal (A&M) for a forensic audit of the Central Bank’s finances amid allegations of money laundering and embezzlement against the bank’s governor, Riad Salameh.
The audit is seen as a key condition for an International Monetary Fund (IMF) support program and other foreign aid to curb Lebanon’s deepest economic crisis since 25-year long civil war.
According to an Al-Akhbar report, during a 24 November meeting President Aoun expressed frustration over what he perceived was an obstruction of the audit by Central Bank authorities, stressing that the criminal audit “is my duty, and it has cost me a lot of time and effort to confront the obstructions.”