Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

Nabih Berri re-elected for a seventh term as Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament

Written by Eric Apim on Tuesday, May 31st 2022 à 17:05 | Read 229 times

At eighty-four, the Shiite Nabih Berri is re-elected for a seventh term as President of the Lebanese Parliament. A position he has held since 1992.

Nabih Berri is re-elected for a seventh term as Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament (photo: Lebanese Parliament)
Nabih Berri is re-elected for a seventh term as Speaker of the Lebanese Parliament (photo: Lebanese Parliament)
LEBANON. The Lebanese Parliament re-elected, on Tuesday 31 May 2022, Nabih Berri for another four years as Speaker of this unique chamber. Despite the loss of majority of Hezbollah and its allies, including the Amal party he leads, this eighty-four year old Shiite was re-elected to a position he has held since October 1992.

This seventh mandate was not so easy to obtain, however. While in 2018, he had collected ninety-eight votes, Nabih Berri had to be satisfied with sixty-five out of 128 voters. Twenty-three blank ballots and forty invalid votes (several of which carried messages about the Beirut Port explosion or displayed the name of Lokman Slim, an anti-Hezbollah activist assassinated in February 2021) were recorded.

The legislative elections of 15 May 2022 had left a glimmer of hope for a change in the politics of this country in default since March 2020 and subjected to the biggest economic and social crisis in its history. Thirteen candidates from the protest movement, which has been calling since October 2019 for the ousting of the current politicians, who are considered incompetent and corrupt, were elected. Their entry in the Parliament and the 10.16% of votes gathered symbolise the street's refusal of the confessional system prevailing in Lebanon. The President of the Republic is always a Maronite Christian, the President of the Council of Ministers a Sunni and the President of the National Assembly a Shia. Or, as the irremovable one himself likes to joke, "still Nabih Berri".

The old majority still in charge of the Parliament

The re-election of Nabih Berri as president of the Parliament confirms this antiphon. Especially since Elias Bou Saab, former Lebanese Minister of Education and National Defence, was appointed as Vice-President. A position always reserved for a Greek Orthodox Christian. Elias Bou Saab, allied to the Free Patriotic Movement (chaired by Lebanese President Michel Aoun, close to Hezbollah), also benefited from sixty-five votes in the second round of voting when he was opposed to Ghassan Skaff, a new MP without label.

It is therefore finally men of the former majority who will lead a Parliament where they no longer have a majority. But the assembly is now fragmented and the debates will be difficult to conduct while Lebanon urgently needs structural reforms to obtain money from the international community and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). And thus try to curb the financial crisis. The paralysis of this institution for decades could still be on the agenda.

On 16 May 2022, the UN stated in a press release that its "Secretary General is counting on the new Parliament to urgently adopt all the laws necessary to stabilise the economy and improve governance".

One of the most unequal countries in the world

In early May 2022, Olivier de Schutter, an expert commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council, stressed in a report on the country that "impunity, corruption and structural inequalities have been built into a venal political and economic system designed to fail those at the bottom, but it doesn't have to be that way. He called Lebanon a "failed state" and attacked the political links to the banking system as "pervasive" and raising "serious concerns about conflicts of interest in their management of the economy and people's savings".

In the same paper, Olivier de Schutter said that "political leaders are completely disconnected from reality, including the despair they have created by destroying people's lives". He described Lebanon as "one of the most unequal countries in the world, but the leaders seem at best unaware of this and at worst comfortable with it". 80% of Lebanese live below the poverty line.

It is now up to Michel Aoun to consult the Parliament before choosing a new Prime Minister. He will necessarily be Sunni. And therefore, the current incumbent, Najib Mikati (Azm movement) appointed at the end of July 2021, seems to be the favourite. Especially since he is a candidate for renewal.

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