Lebanon's President Aoun leaves office after disastrous term bringing economic meltdown

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By Mark Armstrong  with AFP
A supporter of Lebanese President Michel Aoun holds his portrait as he delivers a speech outside the presidential palace in Baabda, east of Beirut, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022.
A supporter of Lebanese President Michel Aoun holds his portrait as he delivers a speech outside the presidential palace in Baabda, east of Beirut, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Bilal Hussein   -  

Lebanon's outgoing President Michel Aoun vacated the palace of Baabda on Sunday, leaving a void at the top of the failing country.

The 89-year-old Christian presided over the state's financial meltdown and the deadly Beirut port explosion that killed over 200 people in 2020.

Leaving office with no one in line to replace him also leaves Lebanon facing a constitutional crisis.

But despite the troubled legacy thousands of supporters turned out to wave him off after hearing him acknowledge the struggle ahead.

"The situation requires a huge effort," Aoun told the crowd. "You know how much Lebanon and you yourselves have lost. Without this effort, we cannot put an end to our suffering. We cannot salvage Lebanon out of this deep pit."

Four sessions in Lebanon's fractured parliament have failed to reach a consensus to replace Aoun and the cabinet is now operating in a caretaker capacity. 

One bright spot in his legacy is that In his final week as president he signed a US-brokered deal delineating Lebanon’s southern maritime border with Israel – a modest diplomatic breakthrough that would allow both countries to extract natural gas from maritime deposits.

Aoun said the deal paved the way for gas discoveries that could be Lebanon’s “last chance” at recovering from a three-year financial meltdown that has cost the currency 95% of its value and pushed 80% of the population into poverty.

Lebanon has otherwise made slow progress on a checklist of reforms required to gain access to $3 billion in financing from the International Monetary Fund.