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Tuesday, Jun 28, 2022

Incumbent Lebanese parliament speaker Berri re-elected for 7th time

Incumbent Lebanese parliament speaker Berri re-elected for 7th time

The incumbent Lebanese parliament speaker Nabih Berri was elected as chairman of the assembly on Tuesday to serve for the seventh four-year term in the top post of legislative body.
Berri, 84, who has been the parliament speaker consecutively since 1992, was elected in Tuesday's session with 65 ballots, with attendance of all of the house 128 members. Twenty-three legislators cast a white paper and 40 ballots were pronounced as canceled.

Shortly ahead of the session, 13 figures representing "the forces of change" who have won seats in parliament in the recent parliamentary elections, gathered outside the house building with relatives of victims of the 2020 Beirut port blast, demanding that the legislators "act as the voice of the families in the explosion investigations."

Berri's election comes on the heel of removing huge concrete blocks that had been placed around the parliament building in downtown Beirut Nemje plaza in the face of past recurring demonstrations by activists, majority of whom were of the young generation.

They were demanding reforms and uprooting corruption, widely seen as a main cause for the nation multiple crises, namely the financial meltdown.

At least 14 figures representing the activists, "the forces of change," have won seats in the 128-seat parliament in the recent nationwide elections, thus increasing their presence in the house.

Due to the electoral outcome, authorities decided to remove the barricades after representatives of the protestors gained access to the parliament by voting.

Following election of the parliament speaker, his deputy and the parliament bureau members, the MPs would be called upon to sit with the president for consultations to designate a new prime minister.

It was the slimmest majority ever won by Berri, reflecting the make-up of a new parliament in which the Iran-backed armed Shi'ite movement Hezbollah and its allies lost the majority they won in 2018.

Tuesday's session was the first since the new parliament was elected on May 15, in the first vote since Lebanon's economic collapse and the Beirut port explosion of 2020.

Berri, who leads the Shi'ite Amal Movement, has held the role of speaker since 1992 and is a close ally of Hezbollah.

Elias Bou Saab, a former education minister, was elected as deputy speaker, a role reserved for a Greek Orthodox Christian.

Bou Saab, allied to the Hezbollah-aligned Free Patriotic Movement of President Michel Aoun, won with 65 votes in the second round of voting against Ghassan Skaff, a newcomer MP who identifies as an independent.

The winners mean Hezbollah's allies retained two important posts in the parliament. The close calls were the first glimpse of how fragmented and polarized Lebanon's new parliament would be, with no single bloc enjoying a majority.

Around a dozen opposition newcomers took their seats for the first time after an unexpectedly strong breakthrough by reform-minded candidates into a system long dominated by the same sectarian groups.

Analysts have warned that the divisions were likely to produce a political paralysis that could further delay passing reform laws needed to drag Lebanon out of economic disaster and create a vacuum in top leadership positions.

Outgoing Prime Minister Najib Mikati is widely seen as leading candidate for the prime minister’s post again.

Berri's re-election Tuesday was largely expected and held within legal deadlines but intense political horse-trading is expected in the coming months.

Observers have warned of protracted deadlocks during consultations to name a new prime minister and in the run-up to an election later this year to replace President Michel Aoun.
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