The Lebanese parliament elected Michael Aoun as its president Monday, ending a two-and-half-year vacuum that threatened to destabilize the highly sectarian country.
Aoun, 81, a retired general from the Lebanese Civil War, is a polarizing figure whose Christian political party, the Free Patriotic Movement, is an ally of the terror group and political party Hezbollah.
Lebanon’s previous president, Michel Suleiman, stepped down in 2014. Since then, Lebanon’s major political parties, mainly controlled by competing sectarian Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, had been deadlocked in the search for a consensus president. Under the Lebanese Constitution, only a Christian can become president.
After taking the oath, Aoun said in a speech he will prioritize political stability for the country.
“I came at a hard time, and there is a lot of hope that I will overcome difficulties…The Lebanese need their state to protect their rights and obligations and for there to be a president who guarantees safety,” he said.
Aoun also promised to “release what is left of our lands from the Israeli occupation” referring to contested areas along the Lebanese-Israeli border.