BEIRUT: Lebanon’s new parliament on Wednesday elected veteran speaker and Hezbollah ally Nabih Berri to a sixth consecutive term, making him one of the longest-serving parliamentary heads in the world.
His election followed the country’s May 6 parliamentary poll, the first in nine years after the deeply divided legislature repeatedly extended its own term. On Wednesday, the body met for its inaugural session to elect its speaker to a four-year term.
Few expected any surprises: the only candidate was incumbent Berri, a savvy politician from the country’s south who has held the position since 1992.
The vote by paper ballot saw 98 of the parliament’s 128 members pick Berri. One vote was disqualified and the rest were blank.
Berri, 80, heads the Amal Movement. It and powerful Shia movement Hezbollah hold all but one of the 27 Shia-allocated seats in Lebanon’s parliament.
Lebanon’s confessional system divides seats in parliament equally among Muslims and Christians, then further splits them among the various sects.
The speakership is reserved for a Shia Muslim, while the other two top positions of prime minister and president go to a Sunni Muslim and Maronite Christian, respectively.
Born in 1938, Berri rose to power as a militia boss in the civil war (1975-1990) before transitioning to politics.