Who is Jihad Azour, the technocrat tapped for Lebanon’s presidency

On Sunday, Lebanon’s parliamentary opposition officially endorsed former finance minister, Jihad Azour, as their candidate for the nation’s presidency. This announcement came hot on the heels of Michel Moawad’s withdrawal from the race, significantly reshaping the presidential contest.

Legislator Mark Daou announced Mr Azour’s candidacy on behalf of 32 opposition-aligned MPs, following weeks of negotiations to find an alternative candidate to Suleiman Frangieh, who enjoys the backing of the pro-Hezbollah bloc.

Describing Mr Azour, Mr Daou stated, “He is the candidate capable of protecting Lebanon from collapse and domination”. Azour’s nomination arrives subsequent to his endorsement by the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) on Saturday.

The FPM, which currently maintains a strained alliance with Iran-backed Hezbollah, has seen its relations cool in recent months due to Hezbollah’s unyielding support of Mr Frangieh’s presidential bid.

Upon the announcement of Mr Azour’s nomination, the opposition bloc immediately called for an electoral session in parliament.

Notably, the previously favoured candidate for the parliamentary opposition, Mr Moawad, endorsed Mr Azour after withdrawing from the race, stating the issue has “always been the project, not the person”.

Mr Moawad’s withdrawal came on the back of several weeks of talks between the opposition, spearheaded by the Lebanese Forces, aimed at finding a robust alternative to Mr Frangieh. It had become clear that Mr Moawad struggled to secure sufficient votes for the presidency, with blank ballots frequently outnumbering the votes cast in his favour across eleven different electoral sessions.

The country has been embroiled in a presidential vacuum since the departure of former President Michel Aoun from office in October. Since then, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has convened 11 sessions to pick a successor, but MPs have so far failed to reach a consensus.

Who is Jihad Azour?

Jihad Azour, 57, comes with an impressive track record. He is a former finance minister and currently heads the Middle East and Central Asia Department at the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Widely seen as a technocrat, Azour could be a beacon of hope to usher in economic stability as Lebanon navigates the worst financial crisis in its history.

Having previously served as Lebanon’s Finance Minister from 2005 to 2008, Azour coordinated key reforms, including modernising the country’s tax and customs systems. In addition to his public service, Azour’s private sector experience is noteworthy. He has held senior positions at McKinsey and Booz & Co., as a Vice-President and Senior Executive Advisor, and was a Managing Partner at investment firm Inventis Partners.

Educated at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris, Mr Azour holds a PhD in International Finance and a post-graduate degree in International Economics and Finance. His research at Harvard on emerging economies and their integration into the global economy and a wide range of publications and teachings on economic and financial issues, underscore his credentials as a leading expert in the field.

Tags : Lebanon