Lebanon's Berri elected for sixth term as speaker

The veteran of the country's parliament has run almost unopposed since 1992

Nabih Berri is seen in the Lebanese Parliament. 23 May 2018. Courtesy Lebanese Parliament
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Lebanon’s long-serving parliament speaker was re-elected on Tuesday as new lawmakers gathered for their first session since a general election earlier this month.

Speaker Nabih Berri secured 98 votes from the 128 lawmakers and will now begin his sixth term. He first became head of the legislative chamber in 1992. The octogenarian has run unopposed or without serious challenge since first taking the seat 26 years ago.

The speaker's office issued a statement urging supporters to avoid celebratory gunfire.

During the session, Mr Berri called for the formation of a new government as fast as possible.

Tuesday’s session was the first for the new intake of MPs from the May 6 election, the country’s first national vote in nine years after parliament’s term was extended three times since its expired in 2013.

MPs also voted for MP Elie Ferzli from the Free Patriotic Movement as deputy speaker and will cast ballots for other key parliamentary posts. Going into the session Mr Ferzli was the favourite for the post with the backing of his party's 29 lawmakers as well as blocs of the speaker's Amal Movement and Hezbollah.

Nabih Berri is seen in the Lebanese Parliament. 23 May 2018. Courtesy Lebanese Parliament

Following the appointment of the key positions in Parliament, parties will turn to deliberation on the makeup of the next cabinet.

The process is likely to take some time despite key officials calling for its swift formation. As well as wrangling over each party’s fair share of seats, recent US sanctions on Hezbollah officials and warnings that the party – designated by Washington as a terrorist group – should not increase its role in government, will likely complicate the process.

Lebanon's confessional political system divides seats in parliament equally among Muslims and Christians, then further splits them among the various sects.

The position of speaker is reserved for a Shiite Muslim, while the other two top positions of prime minister and president go to a Sunni Muslim and a Maronite Christian, respectively. The deputy speaker post is reserved for a Greek Orthodox Christian.

Born in 1938, Berri is a veteran of Lebanon's complex political scene.

He rose to power as a militia boss in the civil war (1957-1990) before transitioning to politics when it ended.

He was simultaneously elected member and speaker of parliament in 1992. In his official role he calls and runs Lebanon's parliamentary sessions.


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