When Lebanese President Michel Sleiman’s term ended on May 25, he left a vacuum that some fear could further erode the influence of Christians in a turbulent region consumed with sectarian infighting.
Sleiman’s post has traditionally been held by a Christian, in the delicate sectarian balance of a nation made up of Shiite Muslims supported by Iran, Sunni Muslims backed by Saudi Arabia and Christians, who are left to fend for themselves. Five attempts by parliament to reach a deal to fill the presidency have failed, leaving an impasse that not only exacerbates political and social polarization in the country, but also weakens the Christian community in the Middle East, where Christian presence is rapidly disappearing.
“With Lebanon you can never tell when the combination of internal struggle and external regional struggle will fuse together in a combustible way,” says New York University Middle East expert Mohamad Bazzi. “The more instability and insecurity in Lebanon, the more likely there will be violence in car bombs and potentially worse.”