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Nabih Berri was re-elected to his post as Parliament speaker for the seventh consecutive term yesterday in the Parliament's first session since the May 15 elections. In the days leading up to the election, it was unknown if Berri would secure enough votes to win in the first round as he was facing a boycott by the two main Christian political camps, the Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement. The Amal Movement leader was the only candidate parties put forward for the speakership, which is traditionally held by a member of the Shiite sect. He won with 65 votes, the bare minimum needed to secure an overall majority. There were 23 blank ballots cast and 40 void ballots in protest. In comparison, in 2018, he received 98 votes. Despite no longer holding a majority in parliament, Hezbollah and its allies mustered up the votes through the help of the Progressive Socialist Party and independent MPs to return Berri to the post. With Berri being the sole candidate, those who opposed his re-election cast blank or invalid ballots, many of which carried messages and slogans, such as “Justice for the port victims” — in reference to the Aug. 4, 2020, Beirut port explosion — as well as "justice for raped women," justice for Imam Musa Sadr and “Justice for Lokman Slim,” an activist and Hezbollah critic who was assassinated in South Lebanon last year.
Though much talked about in the lead up to the vote, the election of Parliament’s deputy speaker occurred without much fanfare. The race ultimately came down to MP Elias Bou Saab, supported by the FPM, and MP Ghassan Skaff, who was supported by the Lebanese Forces. The former won in the second round of voting, garnering 65 votes. Tension only ensued when elections for the Parliament bureau started. Though not required by law, the deputy speaker post traditionally goes to a Greek Orthodox MP. The two secretaries and three commissioners are also distributed along sectarian lines, with the secretary positions reserved for one Maronite and one Druze, and the commissioners divided up as follows: one Armenian, one Greek Catholic and one Sunni. However, this came at the objection of opposition MPs Michel Douaihy and Firas Hamdan, who rejected this sectarian notion and withdrew their respective candidacies. For the two secretary positions, FPM MP Alain Aoun and PSP Hadi Abou Hassan were elected for the positions, while Tashnag's Hagop Pakradounian, LF's Michel Moussa, and Future-linked MP Karim Kabbara.
A portion of the gains the lira made since Friday were erased yesterday, as it slid back past LL32,000 to the US dollar. The depreciation came after many of the banks processing lira-to-dollar conversion transactions reportedly set limits on the amounts that could be exchanged and did not extend the service to commercial clients. The lira reached an all-time high of LL37,700 to the US dollar last Friday before the central bank announced later that day that all those wishing to change lira into dollars could do so at commercial banks, and instructed banks to remain open till 6 p.m. from Monday to Wednesday. On Monday, the value of transactions on the Sayrafa platform reached a record of $196 million. Yesterday’s volume was considerably lower at $105 million.
Workers at state-run television channel Télé-Liban will observe a one-day strike today. In a statement released yesterday, Télé-Liban workers said that production would be suspended for both live programs and television news with the exception of coverage from the Presidential Palace, the Grand Serail, Parliament and the evening news. The employees’ union called on workers to strike from their work stations, calling for an increase in salaries and benefits. This action follows similar steps made by other state employees, including judicial assistants, who began a weeklong strike on Monday, and airport technicians, who yesterday announced a strike that will begin tomorrow and last until June 16.
In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: Rima Abdul Malak, from Jamhour school desk to Andre Malraux’s seat.