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Hrawi, Elias (Lebanon)

Reference work entry

Introduction

Elias Hrawi, a Maronite Christian, took office as president on 24 Nov. 1989. He replaced René Mouawad, who had been elected earlier in the month in the wake of the 1989 charter of national reconciliation (known as the Taif Accord) but assassinated on 22 Nov. Hrawi’s term of office was extended in 1995 for a further 3 years by a constitutional amendment.

Early Life

Born in 1925 in Zahlé in the Bekaa Valley, Hrawi was a successful agricultural businessman before he was elected to the National Assembly as a Maronite deputy in 1972. He continued to serve as a parliamentary member until 1989 when he unsuccessfully challenged René Mouawad in the presidential election on 5 Nov. Mouawad was assassinated 17 days later, and on the 24 Nov. Hrawi was elected in his place. He was active in the negotiations on the Taif Accord and the amendments shifting considerable constitutional power from the (Maronite) president to the (Sunni Muslim) prime minister, maintaining good relations with Syria, the Maronite leadership and the Muslim community.

Career Peak

Gen. Michel Aoun, the Maronite army commander leading a transitional military government appointed by outgoing president Amin Gemayel in Sept. 1988, refused to recognise Mouawad’s or Hrawi’s election. Fighting between pro- and anti-Aoun Christian factions broke out and in 1990, at Hrawi’s request, Syrian troops attacked Aoun’s enclave. Aoun took refuge in the French embassy and later fled to France. In Sept. 1990 Hrawi established the second republic by signing the constitutional amendments negotiated under the Taif Accord. By the end of his presidency in 1998, neither Israeli nor Syrian forces had withdrawn from Lebanon and there were continuing clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian and Shia Hizbollah guerrillas in the south of the country, particularly in April 1996. Nevertheless, the restoration of relative stability during his term in office allowed for the holding of National Assembly elections for the first time since 1972 and for the implementation of programmes to rebuild the country’s shattered economy and infrastructure. Hrawi left office on 24 Nov. 1998. He died aged 79 on 7 July 2006.

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