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May 25, 2008


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Profiles of Lebanon's presidents since independence

Bechara Al Khoury (September 21, 1943 - September 18, 1952): Al Khoury was the first post-independence President of Lebanon, holding office from September 21, 1943, to September 18, 1952, apart from an 11-day interruption in 1943. He had previously served two brief terms as Prime Minister, from May 5, 1927, to August 10, 1928, and from May 9 to October 11, 1929. A lawyer by training, Al Khoury founded Ad Dustour Party and served as a cabinet minister prior to his election as president on September 21, 1943. He was a nationalist who opposed the French Mandate, and on November 11, 1943, he was arrested by Free French troops and imprisoned in Rashaya Tower for 11 days.

Emile Edde (January 20, 1936 - April 4, 1941; November 11 - 22, 1943): Emile Edde was the president of Lebanon for 11 days from November 11 to 22, 1943. He was a Maronite Lebanese political figure. He served as the prime minister of Lebanon from October 11, 1929, to March 25, 1930. He had previously served as the president of Lebanon from 1936 to 1941. He also founded the Lebanese National Bloc party.

Camille Chamoun (September 23, 1952 - September 22, 1958): Camille Chamoun was the president of Lebanon from September 23, 1952, to September 22, 1958, and was one of the country's main Christian leaders during most of the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990). He was first elected to the Lebanese parliament in 1934 and was re-elected in 1937 and 1943. A champion of independence from France, he was arrested on November 11, 1943, and released after 11 days.

Fouad Chehab (September 23, 1958 - September 22, 1964): Fouad Chehab was the president of Lebanon from September 23, 1958, to September 22, 1964. Born to a Maronite Christian family, General Chehab became commander of the Lebanese Army in 1945, after Lebanon gained its independence and upon the ending of the French mandate and military presence. In 1952, Chehab refused to let the army interfere in the uprising, which forced President Bechara Al Khoury to resign. After the resignation Chehab was appointed as the prime minister with the duty to ensure an emergency democratic presidential election. Four days later, Camille Chamoun was elected to succeed Al Khoury.

Charles Helou (September 23, 1964 - September 22, 1970): Charles Helou was the president of Lebanon from September 23, 1964, to September 22, 1970. Born in Beirut, Helou was the scion of a powerful Maronite family from Baabda. He graduated with honours from St. Joseph's University in Beirut in 1929, and went on to complete a degree in law in 1934. Helou also founded two French language newspapers, L'Eclair du Nord and Le Jour. In 1936, he made his first foray into politics, when he joined Pierre Gemayel and three others in launching the Kataeb (Phalangist) Party. Differences with Gemayel later led Helou to quit the party. A protege of Fouad Chehab, he was chosen by the National Assembly to succeed him as President in 1964.

Sulaiman Frangieh (September 23, 1970 - September 22, 1976): Sulaiman Frangieh was the president of Lebanon from September 23, 1970, to September 22, 1976. In the closest and possibly most controversial presidential election in Lebanese history, the National Assembly elected Frangieh to the presidency of the republic on August 17, 1970. He owed his upset victory over Elias Sarkis to a last minute change of mind by Kamal Junblatt, whose supporters in the National Assembly switched their votes to Frangieh. Posing as a consensus candidate, Frangieh drew support from both the right and the left and from all religious factions; there was little that united his supporters ideologically except his promise to maintain the semi-feudal system which concentrated power in the hands of local clan leaders known as Zaiyms.

Elias Sarkis (May 8, 1976 - September 22, 1982): Born in Shabbaniah, Elias Sarkis graduated with a degree in law from St Joseph's University in 1948. Sarkis was appointed the governor of the Bank of Lebanon in 1968. He contested the presidential election of 1970 and was defeated by Sulaiman Frangieh by a single vote. Sarkis was elected president on May 8, 1976, while the civil war was raging. With Syrian forces occupying two thirds of the country and private militias much of the rest, his power was limited. Just before the end of his presidency in 1982, Israel invaded southern Lebanon in the 1982 Lebanon War and had advanced to the outskirts of Beirut.

Ameen Gemayel (September 23, 1982 - September 22, 1988): Ameen Gemayel was the president of Lebanon from September 23, 1982, to September 22, 1988, and is the leader of Kataeb Party. He was the son of Pierre Gemayel, founder of the Kataeb Party. The National Assembly elected Gemayel to presidency on September 21, 1982, in place of his brother Bashir Gemayel who had been assassinated before taking office. He was elected as a member of the National Assembly. Gemayel went into exile for the next 12 years, living in Switzerland, France, and the United States. However, he returned to Lebanon and began to organise the opposition to the government of President ‰mile Lahoud in 2000. In the August 2007 by-elections of the Metn region, Amine Gemayel lost by a small margin to a candidate presented by Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement.

Rene Mouawad (November 5, 1989 - November 22, 1989): He was the president of Lebanon for 17 days when he was assassinated. The son of former municipality mayor Anees Bey Mouawad and Evelyn Shalhoub, Mouawad graduated with a degree in law in 1947 at St Joseph's University. He was elected to the National Assembly in 1957, and re-elected to office in 1960, 1964, 1968, and 1972 - the last parliamentary election before his election to presidency. He was a strong supporter of Fouad Chebab. However, in 1970, he broke with the Chehabist to support the presidency of his old ally, Sulaiman Frangieh. He was elected as the president of Lebanon for 409 days after Amine Gemayel vacated his position. In November 22, 1989, a car bomb was detonated next to his motorcade while returning from Lebanon's Independence Day celebration. He was married to Nayla Al Khoury, a relative of Mouawad's political opponent, Bechara Al Khoury.

Elias Hrawi (November 24, 1989 - November 24, 1998): He was the 10th president of Lebanon where his first challenge was to confront General Michel Aoun, the prime minister who did not bow to his presidency. He got a degree in Commercial Science at Sagesse Faculty, now a part of St Joseph's University. During his first year of presidency, in collaboration with Syrian forces, he was able to defeat Aoun. This victory in October 13, 1990, marked the end of Lebanese Civil War, which allowed him to create Greater Beirut that is totally under government control. He was criticised for having put Lebanon under the total control of Syria. It was under his tenure, when the Brotherly and Cooperation Treaty was signed with Syria on May 22, 1991. In 1998, he stepped down as president, and was succeeded by Army Commander General Emile Lahoud.

Emile Lahoud (November 24, 1998 - November 23, 2007): Emile Lahoud studied Naval Engineering in Great Britain and joined Military Academy in October 1956 as a marine cadet officer, following his father's footstep. Throughout his career, Emile Lahoud has received various commendations, medals and decorations as well as military promotions displaying his competence and integrity. He held various posts in the military, including commander-in-chief of the army from 1989 to 1998. In 1990, he was responsible in rebuilding the army and credited in ending the militias, which plagued the country during the civil war. He ran for presidency in 1998 after amending the constitution, which allows the army commander-in-chief to run after holding the position for three years. In 2004, under pressure from Syria, the parliament voted the extension of his term adding three years more from the limited six-year term.

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