File Photo: Lebanese lawmakers and some ministers including Prime Minister Najib Mikati, centre, headed by the Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, top centre, attend a parliament session, in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022. AP
Michel Moawad, whose father Rene Moawad served as president, was the frontrunner in the 128-seat parliament with 44 votes on Thursday, still far short of the two-thirds majority -- or 86 ballots -- needed to win.
Parliament is split between supporters of the powerful Shia Hezbollah movement and its opponents, neither having a clear majority.
Hezbollah rejects the candidacy of Moawad, who is seen as close to the United States and calls for a "compromise candidate" to be found.
In the meantime, most lawmakers from its bloc spoilt their ballots.
"Neither camp can impose a candidate, A compromise must be found and an understanding reached on a candidate acceptable to everyone," deputy speaker Elias Bou Saab told AFP in an interview on Tuesday.
Aoun's own election in 2016 followed a more than two-year vacancy at the presidential palace as lawmakers made 45 failed attempts to reach a consensus on a candidate.
But this year's vacancy comes as Lebanon is gripped by an unprecedented financial crisis that has pushed much of the population into poverty since 2019.
During a vacancy, the powers of the president fall to the cabinet.
But since May Lebanon has had only a caretaker government that lacks the authority to push through the sweeping reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund as a condition for releasing billions of dollars in emergency loans.