Jihad Azour halts IMF position to focus on Lebanon presidency

Jihad Azour halts IMF position to focus on Lebanon presidency
An IMF spokesperson said Azour would halt work to avoid any perceived conflict of interest.
2 min read
09 June, 2023
Azour is the first serious competition pro-Hezbollah candidate, Sleiman Frangieh, has had for the presidency.

Jihad Azour, the opposition-supported candidate to be Lebanon's next president, will be taking leave from his role at the IMF to avoid any conflicts of interest, an IMF spokesperson said on Thursday.

Azour is currently the head of the Middle East and Central Asia at the IMF and was previously a finance minister in Lebanon.

Lebanon has been without a president since November 2022 and is currently ruled by a caretaker government.

A new president must be appointed before a new government can be formed.

Azour was announced as a presidential candidate on 3 June and has earned the support of Lebanon’s two largest Christian parties as well as 23 independent members of parliament.

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He is the first serious contender for the pro-Iran group Hezbollah's candidate, Sleiman Frangieh, which the opposition and Christian parties have so far vetoed.

Hezbollah has dismissed Azour's candidacy, with MP Hassan Fadlallah saying, "he will not reach Baabda palace," where the presidency is located.

Speaker of the House Nabih Berri has called for parliament to vote on a presidential candidate on 14 June.

Lebanon has been mired in an economic crisis since the fall of 2019 when its banking sector collapsed.

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Two-thirds of its population has been plunged into poverty and basic services have all but stopped as a result of the crisis.

Since 2019, politicians have failed to pass a single policy recommended by the IMF as necessary to create economic stability and access international financing.

On Thursday, an IMF spokesperson said that Lebanon must take "urgent action" on reform to avoid "irreversible consequences for the economy."