BEIRUT: Lebanon’s parliament failed to elect a new president for the 11th time on Thursday, prolonging an institutional vacuum amid one of the worst economic crises facing the country.
MP Michel Moawad received the most votes with 34, but 37 lawmakers returned blank ballots, according to Lebanon’s news agency.
Issam Khalife received seven votes, while Ziad Baroud gained just two, and Edward Honein had one.
A caretaker government took over when former president Michel Aoun stepped down at the end of October, 2022, stalling a host of economic reforms aimed at stopping wasteful spending and combatting rampant corruption.
Lebanese authorities in April, 2022, reached a tentative agreement with the International Monetary Fund for a recovery plan conditional on a host of economic reforms and anti-corruption measures.
However, the international organization has been critical of Lebanon’s sluggish efforts to meet these demands.
Meanwhile, the Lebanese pound on Thursday hit a new record low of 50,000 pounds per US dollar, currency exchange dealers told Reuters, marking a loss in value of more than 95 percent since the country’s financial system imploded in 2019.
The pound was pegged to the dollar at a rate of 1,507 in 1993, a peg that held until 2019, when decades of profligate spending, mismanagement and corruption triggered a financial crisis.
Lebanon’s cash-strapped banks continue to impose strict limits on withdrawals of foreign currency since October 2019, tying up the savings of millions of people.
As the economy continues to tank without any reforms, some depositors have resorted to storming bank branches and take their trapped savings by force.