Shiite politician Nabih Berri, a close ally of the Iran-backed Hezbollah group, was re-elected for a sixth term as speaker of Lebanon’s parliament in an uncontested vote on Wednesday.
Another Hezbollah ally, Elie Ferzli, was elected deputy speaker, reflecting a shift in Lebanon’s political landscape in favour of the heavily armed Shi’ite group.
Hezbollah, and groups and individuals that support its possession of arms, won at least 70 of parliament’s 128 seats in a May 6 election. The result was a reversal of Lebanon’s last general election in 2009, when anti-Hezbollah groups won a majority.
Berri won the votes of 98 of 128 MPs. After being reappointed as speaker, a role he has held since 1992, he called for a new government to be formed as soon as possible.
Saad al-Hariri, who headed the outgoing cabinet, is expected to be premier again and faces tough negotiations to form a coalition government including all the main parties. He will lead a caretaker government until the new cabinet is agreed.
Berri, 80, heads the Amal Movement and has been allied with Hezbollah since the end of Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war.
Hariri, an opponent of Hezbollah, had declared support for the re-election of Berri as speaker, a post reserved for Shi’ites in Lebanon’s sectarian power sharing system.
Ferzli, like Berri and Hezbollah, has close ties to the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad. Hariri had declared his opposition to Ferzli’s candidacy.
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.