Lebanon’s divided parliament holds first session after vote

BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon’s newly elected parliament was holding its first session Tuesday, with lawmakers expected to choose the country’s longtime parliament speaker, Nabih Berri, for a seventh fourth-year term. His re-election was virtually guaranteed, albeit with More than a dozen new MPs won seats on the reform agenda.

A new legislature is ushering in a new legislature as Lebanon remains in the midst of the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history, rooted in decades of corruption and mismanagement by the ruling class, which has persisted since the end of the civil war. govern the country.

The new parliament, elected on May 15, is deeply divided, with no coalition holding a majority in the 128-member legislature. The radical Hezbollah group and its allies have lost their majority since 2018 and now hold 61 seats, four away from an absolute majority.

Thirteen independent candidates from the 2019 protest movement, as well as some Christian parties in parliament, said they would not vote for Berry, leading to a much lower approval rating for him, mostly from Shiite parties.

Still, the Hezbollah-led coalition is expected to re-elect Berry, an ally who has held the post since 1992. Berry leads the Shiite Muslim Amal militia and is the only candidate for the speakership, under Lebanon’s power-sharing agreement held by a Shiite sect.

Ahead of the meeting, a group of independents and new lawmakers gathered outside Beirut’s port — the site of a massive explosion in August 2020 that killed more than 200 people — and met with the families of those killed in the blast. After the meeting, they walked towards Parliament, surrounded by hundreds of supporters chanting “thawra”, or revolution, in Arabic.

The probe into the port explosion has been put on hold for months as hundreds of tons of improperly stored ammonium nitrate were detonated due to a legal challenge from officials charged by the investigating judge.

“Beirut has a right to know who killed her,” said independent lawmaker Yassin Yassin, referring to the botched investigation.

The presence of independent lawmakers in the legislature is a major achievement – ​​they vote sporadically and face intimidation and threats from entrenched mainstream parties.

It sends a strong message to politicians who have held their seats for decades and continue to do so, despite an economic collapse that has impoverished Lebanon and sparked the biggest wave of immigration since the 1975-90 civil war.

Tuesday’s meeting is expected to reflect divisions in the legislature between pro and anti-Hezbollah lawmakers who may find it difficult to work together to form a new government and implement much-needed reforms.

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