Lahhud, Emile (1936–)
LAHHUD, EMILE (1936–)
Lebanese military and political figure, born in 1936, at BEabda. Emile Lahhud was descended from a family of Lebanese notables, Maronite in confession. His father, Jamal Lahhud, a military officer and labor minister in the presidency of Charles Helu, was nicknamed "the red general," for having legalized the leftist unions.
In 1959 Lahhud entered the military academy of Fayadiyeh. After choosing the navy, he studied for a few semesters abroad: first in Great Britain, where he obtained a degree in naval engineering, then later in France and the United States. In 1980 he was named military staff director in the Lebanese defense ministry. Two years later, under the mandate of President Amin Jumayyil, he was promoted general. In 1984 Lahhud became chief of staff of the defense minister, Adel Osseiran. In September 1988 the interim prime minister, General Michel Aoun, renamed him to this post. A year later, dismissed from his functions, Lahhud rejoined the general staff, President Ilyas al-Hirawi naming him, on 28 November, commander-in-chief of the Lebanese army. This nomination came shortly before Aoun was dismissed from his post as the head of the Lebanese armies. As commander-in-chief, Lahhud undertook a complete reorganization of the Lebanese armed forces, in the hope that they would become a factor in national unification. Having established religious parity within units, he made attempts to reduce political obtrusion into military affairs. At the beginning of 1991, his relations with the defense minister, Ilyas al-Murr, began to deteriorate, and in August 1992, he interdicted military participation in the legislative election campaigns. Supported by the army chief-of-staff, Hikmat Shehabi, his relations with the new Lebanese defense minister, Mohsen Dalloul, improved, and he made attempts to be on good terms with the new Lebanese prime minister, Rafiq Bahaʾuddin al-Hariri. He was successful also in winning the backing of a majority of the members of the high military council.
On 31 January, 1993 Lahhud went to Damascus, where he was welcomed by President Hafiz al-Asad. Confident because of this support, he did not hesitate to confront the Lebanese prime minister, whom he reproached for relying on internal security forces (ISF), to the detriment of the army. Favoring good relations between Syria and Lebanon, Lahhud worked to improve cooperation between the Lebanese and Syrian general staffs. In April 1994, when he was planning to compete in the presidential election of 1996, the council of ministers voted unanimously to prolong his tenure as the head of the Lebanese army for two years, allowing him to keep his post until the vote. President Hirawi was also a candidate, and relations between the two men deteriorated. The crisis reached its apogee in November 1995, at which time the mandate of President Hirawi was renewed. Three years later, benefiting from the open support of Asad, Lahhud was elected president with 118 of the 128 votes in the Chamber of Deputies—the others, followers of Walid Kamal Jumblatt, boycotted the election. As soon as he entered office, he came up against the opposition of the prime minister, Rafiq Bahaʾuddin al-Hariri. The latter, when asked by the Chamber of Deputies to stay on in his position, refused to form a new government. Thirty-one deputies then decided to leave the choice of whether or not to renew Hariri as prime minister to the new president. Citing the principle of parity, whereby the president could not himself designate the prime minister, Hariri resigned, replaced by Salim al-Hoss. There were delays in President Lahhud's effecting the economic reforms expected by the Lebanese population, which resulted in general discontent. In 1999 Lahhud ordered security forces to storm college campuses to stop anti-Syrian demonstrations.
On 3 September 2000, the failure of a number of his supporters in the legislative elections, and the brilliant victory of Hariri's slate in Beirut, weakened Lahhud's position considerably in relation to Hariri and Jumblatt, and Hariri once again became prime minister. In October 2000, Lahhud was scheduled to give a speech at the League of Arab States summit in Cairo, but because President Bashshar al-Asad was late in giving his approval, Lahhud was unable to speak. In 2001 Lahhud found it necessary to execute another campaign of suppression against anti-Syrian nationalists. His prospects for reelection in 2004 were said to be slim.