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Hezbollah ally re-elected speaker of Lebanese parliament

Mahmoud Zayat, AFP | Longtime Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri at his home in southern Lebanon on May 8, 2018

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.

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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.

(REUTERS)

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