BEIRUT — Politician Nabih Berri, a close ally of the Hezbollah group, was re-elected for a sixth term as speaker of Lebanon’s parliament in an uncontested vote on Wednesday.
Reflecting a shift in Lebanon’s political landscape in favor of the heavily armed Shi’a Muslim group, another Hezbollah ally, Elie Ferzli, was elected deputy speaker,
That prompted the interior minister to walk out of parliament in protest.
Berri said President Michel Aoun would begin consultations with lawmakers on Thursday to pick Lebanon’s next prime minister, likely to be the previous one, Saad al-Hariri.
Hezbollah, and groups and individuals that support its possession of arms, won at least 70 of parliament’s 128 seats in an election on May 6. The result was a reversal of Lebanon’s last national election in 2009, when anti-Hezbollah groups scored a majority.
Lebanon is under pressure to do that to tackle a dire economic situation and unsustainable public debt levels.
Under Lebanon’s sectarian power-sharing system, the speaker must be a Shi’a Muslim, the deputy speaker a Greek Orthodox Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the president a Maronite Christian.
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 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.
Syria, which had a military presence in Lebanon from 1976, dominated the country from 1990 until it pulled its troops out.
Outgoing interior minister Nohad Machnouk, a member of Hariri’s Future Movement party, said he refused to take part in a parliament session “to restore one of the most important symbols of Syrian guardianship”.