Lebanon’s new parliament set to hold first session

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After a nine-year run and three extensions of its mandate, Lebanon’s parliament has finally dissolved, paving the way for a new house of assembly.

Legislators elected in Lebanon’s May 6 parliamentary vote are set to convene on Wednesday for the assembly’s first session, when they are expected to elected a new house speaker.

Under Lebanon’s sectarian power-sharing system, the speaker must be a Shia Muslim, the president a Maronite Christian and the prime minister a Sunni Muslim.

Nabih Berri, who has held the position of assembly speaker since 1992, is widely expected to be reappointed. Once that position is filled, the speaker will then oversee the process to elect a deputy speaker.

Hezbollah, Amal, the Future Movement – led by outgoing Prime Minister Saad Hariri – the Progressive Socialist Party and the March 8 movement have all declared their support for Berri.

The focus will then turn to the position of prime minister. According to Lebanon’s political system, the president must hold consultations with the main parliamentary blocs before nominating a new prime minister.

Role of Hezbollah sanctions in government formation

The parliamentary election, the first in nine years, saw 917 candidates from multiple parties compete for Lebanon’s 128-seat national assembly.

The election, which was devised under a new proportional list system that divided the country into 15 electoral constituencies, was marked by low voter turnout – 49.2 percent.

The Shia movement Hezbollah and its allies made the biggest gains, winning 70 seats. Hariri’s Future Movement lost more than a third of its power, but remains the biggest Sunni-led party with 20 seats.

On Tuesday, Lebanese news outlet al-Jadeed quoted Hariri as saying that a decision had been taken to form a new government quickly. 

What’s next for Lebanon?

“There is a decision to accelerate government formation, and I think the sanctions on Hezbollah could have a positive impact and speed up the birth of the new government,” he said.

The sanctions Hariri was referring to was the measures imposed by the United States and Arab Gulf countries on May 16 on Hezbollah, which targeted the Iran-backed movement’s top five officials, including Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah.

The move was denounced by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who criticised Saudi Arabia’s role in supporting the sanctions as collusion.

“Collaboration with its US patron to sanction the first force to liberate Arab territory and shatter the myth of Israeli invincibility,” Zarif tweeted. “Shame upon shame.”

However, Lebanon’s political pundits said that whether these sanctions will play a role in the formation of a new government is yet to be seen.

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