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06/06/2023 Lebanon (International Christian Concern) – The Lebanese opposition coalition nominated Jihad Azour as a candidate in the presidential upcoming election. Azour is the current director of the Middle East and Central Asia element within the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and has not yet publicly announced his candidacy.  

The opposition coalition consists of various opposition, independent, and Christian parties rallying against the Shia extremist group Hezbollah and their endorsed candidate Suleiman Frangieh. 

This comes as negotiations between the Lebanese government and the IMF are in a stalemate. Since the end of former President Michel Aoun’s term in October 2022, political and economic conditions have continued to decline. Internal divides and external pressures have partly caused the Lebanese parliament to fail more than ten times to elect the succeeding president.  

The complex political system in Lebanon has been in place since 1943, when the nation’s political leaders set up proportional representation in the government off the three main religious groups: Maronite Christians (represented by the president), Shia Muslims (represented by the speaker of parliament), and Sunni Muslims (represented by the prime minister). What followed was a troubled history of sectarian tensions, civil war, political gridlock, and proxy conflicts that continue to this day. 

Former President Aoun had previously alienated many in the Christian community after making tenuous comments on the state of Lebanese Christianity vis-à-vis Hezbollah during a visit to the Vatican. There have been many instances of persecution of Christians by Hezbollah, including violent incidents.  

Amid worsening political and economic conditions, the Christian community faces an increasingly uncertain future if the Hezbollah-backed presidential candidate is elected. The U.S. government has indicated that it may impose economic sanctions on Lebanese officials that continue to hinder the election process. 

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