(Photo credit: Reuters)
The head of the Amal Movement and member of parliament (MP) Nabih Berri was re-elected as Speaker of the Parliament on 31 May by the newly-elected MPs. He has held this position since 1992.
Berri won the post by a single vote, obtaining 65 votes out of the 128 seat parliament. In 2018, following the last parliamentary elections, Berri won with 98 votes.
After his latest election, Berri addressed the parliament, stating that any disputes and competition among parties in Lebanon should only that which helps the best interests of Lebanon and Lebanese.
He addressed the MPs who cast blank ballots, saying he would meet such “white votes with a white heart of cooperation” for the sake of saving Lebanon.
“We must unite in rejecting normalization with the [Israeli] enemy, no matter how intense the pressure,” Berri stressed.
He underlined the need for Lebanese lawmakers to unite and protect the rights of depositors in Lebanese banks, to approve all laws to combat corruption, and to recover stolen funds illicitly transferred outside of Lebanon.
After Berri’s election, the Lebanese parliament proceeded to vote on the deputy house speaker, which by law has to be from the Orthodox Christian sect.
The two candidates were Elias Bou Saab – the former minister of defense and the husband of famous Lebanese singer Julia Boutros – and Ghassan Skaf, a newly-elected MP.
Although Bou Saab was in the lead, he failed to secure 65 votes and a second round of votes was held. He secured the needed votes in the second round.
Independents, civil society, and March 14 (older pro-west parties) were not united around supporting a candidate among the Shia MPs to run against Berri. By law, the house speaker has to be from the Shia Muslim sect.
Blank votes amounted to 23 ballots, while 40 ballots contained invalid candidates. The invalid ballots were mostly cast by members of the Saudi-backed Lebanese Forces (LF) party and Kataeb.
Some invalid ballots had the name of Lokman Slim, a pro-Israel Lebanese activist who worked closely with the US Department of State and Israeli officials, according to Wikileaks cables. Slim publicly called for a ‘Nakba’ against the Shia community in Lebanon.
Other invalid ballots called for justice for the victims of the Beirut Port blast and for those who were maimed by security forces during the 2019 uprising.
A day ahead of the vote, Hezbollah MP Muhammad Raad said: “We are open to all cooperation, regardless of political or ideological background. And we are ready to cooperate on the basis of the political slogans for combating corruption and reviving the economy.”
Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah previously called for political cooperation, stating that since no political bloc has a clear majority, this might encourage all Lebanese groups to take responsibility for the current crisis instead of engaging in blame games.
Nasrallah also advocated for the state to stop sitting on the large amount of natural resources in Lebanon’s territorial waters.
“Extracting oil is the main opportunity for getting ourselves out of the crisis we are in, not begging and asking the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for loans,” the Hezbollah leader stated on 20 May.
Since 2019, the Lebanese people have endured a freeze on their bank deposits and life savings, the collapse of the Lebanese lira, hyperinflation, and a crippling energy crisis, with blackouts that can last for up to 23 hours a day.
The UN recently accused Lebanon’s political elite of human rights violations in creating the conditions for an acute economic crisis that has plunged over 80 percent of the population below the poverty line.