Nabih Berri faces opposition for Lebanese house speaker candidacy

Nabih Berri faces opposition for Lebanese house speaker candidacy
Both Lebanon's independent MPs and the Lebanese Forces have signaled their opposition to Berri's candidacy.
2 min read
23 May, 2022
Berri, 84 years-old, has been a campaign target for Lebanese opposition parties, who describe him as corrupt.

Nabih Berri, the veteran speaker of Lebanon’s parliament, faces fierce opposition from newly elected MPs for his re-election to the position, according to reports.

Berri, first elected as speaker 30-years-ago, was re-nominated by his Amal movement on Saturday, with his candidacy backed by the Iran-aligned Hezbollah bloc in parliament.

Independents have signaled their wish to end Berri’s decades-long tenure in the post - which is reserved for Shia Muslims - describing him as an icon of "establishment corruption", which has typified Lebanon for so long.

There is no clear alternative to Berri and it is likely the pro-Hezbollah parliamentary bloc has enough seats to re-elect him.

"Maybe we will have the same speaker, Nabih Berri, but he will not get the endorsement of the majority of parliamentarians. This will be the first blow to the establishment," Laury Haytayan, the national coordinator of opposition party Taqadum, told The New Arab.

The pro-Saudi Lebanese Forces (LF) are also eager to replace Berri as house speaker, a position reserved for Shia Muslims. The head of the Maronite party, Samir Geagea, said on Sunday that the LF will not re-elect Berri, calling him the head of the "movement of lies, deception and cheating".

An LF spokesperson, Marc Saad, told The New Arab: "Things cannot continue the way they were before." He said the country needs a spokesperson who "has a fully Lebanese agenda".

The independents and the LF make up a sizeable bloc in parliament, occupying at least 55 seats. This could stall Berri’s re-appointment as speaker.

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Lebanon’s former parliament met for the last time on Sunday. Its new parliament has two weeks to appoint a new speaker.

According to the informal confessional system which governs Lebanon’s politics, the speaker of the house must be a Shia Muslim.

Neither the independents nor the LF has a Shia MP who could replace Berri as speaker.

Lebanon's 2022 election delivered an upset for establishment parties, with independents winning an unprecedented number of seats and the pro-Hezbollah bloc losing its majority.

Analysts have signaled that Lebanon's parliament could be heading towards gridlock at a critical time for Lebanon’s beleaguered economy.

In the days following the election, the Lebanese lira nosedived, trading at over 32,000 lira to the dollar at the time of publishing – a 15 percent decrease in under a week.

Lebanon's new MPs will have to pass badly needed reforms in order to secure a bailout with the IMF.

Economists have described an IMF deal as a confidence-building measure and the first step out of Lebanon's crisis, one of the world’s worst since 1850.

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