Lebanese parliament re-elects Berri as speaker

Reuters , Wednesday 23 May 2018

In this file photo taken on November 12, 2015 A handout picture released by the Lebanese Parliament shows parliament speaker Nabih Berri (C) calling an end to a session in the capital Beirut. (AFP photo)

Shi'ite politician Nabih Berri, a close ally of the Iran-backed Hezbollah group, was re-elected as speaker of Lebanon's parliament for the sixth time since 1992 on Wednesday, securing the backing of 98 out of 128 lawmakers.

The new parliament was sitting for the first time since the May 6 general election, Lebanon's first since 2009. After his re-election as speaker, Berri called for a new government to be formed as soon as possible.

Berri, 80, heads the Amal Movement and has been allied with Hezbollah since the end of Lebanon's 1975-90 civil war.

He was unopposed for the post, reserved for a Shi'ite under Lebanon's sectarian power-sharing system. Outgoing Sunni prime minister Saad al-Hariri, an opponent of Hezbollah, had declared support for his re-election.

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

Another Hezbollah ally, Elie Ferzli, is a leading candidate to be elected as deputy speaker, reflecting a shift in the political landscape in favour of Hezbollah since the 2009 vote.

Ferzli, like Berri and Hezbollah, has close ties to the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Parties and individuals who back Hezbollah's possession of arms won at least 70 of parliament's 128 seats. The last time Lebanon held an election, an anti-Hezbollah alliance led by Hariri and backed by Saudi Arabia won a majority.

The deputy speaker position, reserved for a Greek Orthodox Christian, has been held by a Hezbollah opponent since 2005, the year Syrian troops were forced to withdraw from Lebanon after the assassination of Rafik al-Hariri, Saad's father.

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