Shiite Muslim politician Nabih Berri, who leads the Shiite Amal Movement, has held the role of speaker since 1992 and is a close ally of Hezbollah. (AFP)
Nabih Berri wins 65 votes in the 128-member parliament
BEIRUT: Lebanon’s new legislature narrowly elected veteran Shiite Muslim politician Nabih Berri for a seventh term as speaker of parliament in its first session on Tuesday.
Berri, 84, won 65 votes in the 128-member parliament, where the role of speaker is reserved for a Shiite Muslim under the sectarian political system.
It was the slimmest majority ever won by Berri, reflecting the make-up of a new parliament in which the Iran-backed armed Shiite 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 devastating Beirut port explosion of 2020.
Berri, who leads the Shiite Amal Movement, has held the role of speaker since 1992 and is a close ally of Hezbollah.
Around a dozen opposition newcomers took their seats for the first time in the more fragmented chamber, after an expectedly strong breakthrough by reform-minded candidates into a system long dominated by the same sectarian groups.
Opponents of Hezbollah including the Saudi-aligned Lebanese Forces — a Christian faction — gained seats.
With parliament split into several camps, none of which have a majority, analysts have warned of the prospect of political paralysis that could further delay the reforms needed to drag Lebanon out of economic disaster.
Some of the votes cast in the secret ballot for speaker carried messages echoing grievances against a sectarian elite that has steered Lebanon into its worst instability since the 1975-90 civil war.
“Justice for the Beirut blast,” read one.