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Emile Lahoud
Arabic: amīl lahūd

Emile Lahoud.
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Emile Lahoud.

(1936- ) Lebanese president 1998-2007.
Despite great expectations from Christians and nationalists, Lahoud has proven to be a weak leader, and is best defined as a Syrian marionette. His popularity is low, and he will apparently not stand a chance of being reelected president in 2004 — unless Damascus forces the parliament to vote against their interests.
Apparently, Lahoud exercises more power on the decision-making of the government than prime minister since 2000, Rafiq Hariri. But behind him the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, gives instructions both to Lahoud as well as other forces in Lebanon that the president has to rely upon.
Lahoud has been behind many acts of suppression against those demonstrating against the Syrian presence in Lebanon, leading to much discontent with him.
Lahoud's rise to power was much due to the contacts and position his father, Jamil, had built, first through the independence fight of Lebanon in the early 1940's, then as a politician in the 1960's.
Prior to being elected president, the descriptions on his personal qualities vary much. According to his military colleagues on the eve of the Lebanese Civil War, he had proven to be unusually coward — when fighting got too heavy he used to hide in the basement of Al-Manar Hotel in Jounieh.
But following the civil war he showed better qualities. He had been efficient as a Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, and successful in rebuilding its structure and strength. He was also known for his firm stance on corruption.
But most important to his rise to power were his good relations with both Syria and USA. Syria expected him to be effective in gaining support from the Lebanese Christians, an weaken the powers of the Druze leader Kamal Jumblatt, who they thought had become too strong in Lebanese politics.
Many leading politicians of Lebanon had positive expectations of him. In order to have him elected, the Constitution was changed on the point saying that senior civil servants had to resign at least 2 years before accepting a political office, was amended. This happened both with the support of Lebanese politicians and with pressure from Syria.
Emile Lahoud is married and has 3 children.

1936 January 12: Born in Baabdat as the son of a general. His father was one of the central figures in the independence fight in the 1940's.
1956: Lahoud joins the Military Academy to start his military career.
1959: Graduates from the Military Academy with rank of lieutenant.
1966: Becomes commander of the 2nd Fleet.
1967: Marries Andrée Amadouny.
1968: Becomes commander of the 1st Fleet.
1972: Moves to the USA to pursue his military education at the US Naval Command College in Rhode Island.
1973: Comes back from the USA.
1979: Returns to the USA for a continuation of his military studies.
1980: Returns from USA.
1989: With the conflict between Michel Aoun and the parliament forces, Lahoud supports Aoun. He even tries to get his help to get Syrian backing in making himself president.
September: Lahoud is fired for incompetence by Aoun, and moves into Syrian-controlled parts of Beirut.
November 28: Is appointed Commander of the Armed Forces, after that many other candidates had turned down the offer. He becomes central in the stabilization process towards the end of the Lebanese Civil War.
1990's: Lahoud takes a strong hold on rebuilding the Lebanese army. This involves the introduction of compulsory military service for Lebanese men and acquisition of equipment from USA. But he also allowed Syrian influence to the extent that Damascus was able to overrule decisions of the highest officials in the army.
1998 October 15: Is elected president by a unanimous National Assembly, except Walid Jumblatt and his supporters who boycotted the assembly. Aoun also protested against the appointment.
November 24: Lahoud takes office, assuming powers that had been stripped from the presidency by the Ta'if Accord of 1989. His presidency gets a rugged start, as prime minister Rafiq Hariri refuses to form a new government.
December: Lahoud appoints Selim al-Hoss to new prime minister.
1999 March: On the order of Lahoud, security forces storm university campuses where students protested against Syrian presence in Lebanon.
2000: Parliamentary elections makes the groups of Hariri and Jumblatt far stronger. Hariri returns as prime minister, in a stronger position towards Lahoud compared to the 1998 situation.
October: Lahoud is to hold a speach at an Arab summit meeting in Cairo, Egypt, but president Bashar al-Assad of Syria is too late with approving it. Lahoud ends up giving a 1 minute improvised speach.
2001 August: Lahoud launches massive arrests of national dissidents.
2007 November 24: Steps down as president, and is succeeded by Fouad Siniora.

By Tore Kjeilen