The sectarian and political rift in Lebanon makes it very difficult to elect a president of the republic or to form a new cabinet. There is little question that the new presidential vacancy portends increased political anarchy as well as a collapse of the economy and social order. A shaky caretaker cabinet with limited authority now governs Lebanon, which has been through an unparalleled economic crisis for three years. The parliament is deeply split and lacks an unambiguous and obvious majority that would allow for the election of a new president.
The government to which presidential powers are intended to be passed under the constitution is resigned and thus constrained in how it does business, despite the fact that the office of the president does not play a key role in controlling the executive authority.
This comes in contrast to the previous three decades, where the political system was able to tolerate multiple instances of a state of vacancy, whether at the level of the presidency, as occurred between 2014 and 2016, or at the level of extended periods without a functioning government.
This time is different from previous times because there is a risk that a prolonged presidential vacancy will cause the nation to further degenerate. Additionally, allowing the presidential vacuum to continue will eventually fuel skepticism about the caretaker government’s authority, furthering political paralysis and institutional breakdown.