Nabih Berri was re-elected Parliament speaker Wednesday with 98 votes, ushering in his sixth term in the post since he first took up the speakership in 1992, as the new governing body met for its inaugural session following elections earlier this month.
"I extend my sincere thanks, for the sixth time, to the MPs for their confidence in renewing [my] responsibilities as Parliament speaker," Berri said in remarks immediately following his re-election.
Murr commended Berri minutes ahead of the vote for presiding over Parliament for 26 years, during which time, Murr said, the speaker had “protected the unity of Lebanon.”
MPs began submitting their votes for deputy speaker following Berri's re-election. MP Elie Ferzli was widely predicted to win the deputy role, which is a post customarily reserved for Orthodox MPs.
Amal Movement leader Berri was widely expected to take up the mantle of parliamentary speaker Wednesday, after a number of parliamentary blocs voiced their official support for him in consultations Tuesday.
In one unorthodox development during Wednesday’s session, first-time Beirut I MP Paula Yacoubian disputed officials' reading of her vote, after her ballot – on which she had written the name of Lebanese film director Nadine Labaki – was announced as a blank slip.
All votes other than those for Berri were announced as blank slips, or “white paper.”
Wednesday’s vote came a day after the newly elected Parliament began its four-year mandate, as the previous body’s nine-year term came to an end at midnight Monday.
A number of MPs voiced their intention to vote for Berri Wednesday as they filed into Parliament.
Berri’s 17-member Development and Liberation bloc nominated him for a new term as speaker, during a meeting Tuesday at his Ain al-Tineh residence.
Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Future bloc also announced Tuesday it would support Berri’s re-election.
Former MP Walid Joumblatt’s nine-member Democratic Gathering bloc decided unanimously it, too, would vote for Berri in Wednesday’s vote.
Free Patriotic Movement MP Elie Ferzli is expected to emerge victorious Wednesday as deputy speaker, against Lebanese Forces MP Anis Nassar. In addition to his own FPM bloc’s 29 members, Ferzli is also backed by Berri’s bloc, Hezbollah’s bloc and their allies in Parliament.
Speaking to local radio Wednesday morning, Nassar conceded that Ferzli was the day’s likely winner. “It is true that the figures point toward an outcome in favor of Ferzli,” Nassar told Voice of Lebanon (93.3), “but we ran [for the position] out of our convictions and ideology.”
"The important thing in facilitating the government's formation is to not raise the ceiling of demands," Nassar added in Wednesday morning's interview, noting that the Lebanese Forces bloc would "seek to have a significant number of ministers" in the new Cabinet.
As Nassar entered Parliament later Tuesday morning amid a tangible security presence, one hour before the session was scheduled to begin, he told local media that his "chances [of becoming deputy speaker] are slim.”
A number of foreign ambassadors and high level Lebanese security officials were also present ahead of the session, including State Security chief Maj. Gen. Tony Saliba.
Meanwhile, caretaker Prime Minister and newly re-elected MP Saad Hariri joined MP Michel Murr, the oldest member of the new Parliament, to accompany him to the body's first session, as is customary.
The two were seen just before noon getting into a car at Murr's residence in the Metn town of Rabiyeh to head towards Beirut.
Hariri deflected questions over how long the vote for speaker might take Wednesday, instead wishing reporters a "Happy Ramadan."
As required by Lebanon's Constitution, the eldest MP, in this case Murr, called Tuesday on Parliament to meet the following day to hold the vote.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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