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Asharq Al-Awsat
Asharq Al-Awsat
Beirut - Caroline Akoum

Lebanon's Opposition Tests its Unity in Electing the Deputy Speaker

Lebanese soldiers remove barbed wire from the road leading to the parliament (EPA)

Lebanon's opposition blocs and figures are set to face several challenges, beginning with the election of the parliament speaker and his deputy, followed by naming a prime minister, forming a government, and electing a president.

It will "test" the unity and coordination among its members to prove whether they can confront Hezbollah and its allies.

The Free Patriotic Movement and Hezbollah refuse to recognize that the parliamentary majority now belongs to the opposition.

The opposition will first face the challenge of electing the deputy speaker, given that Nabih Berri is the only candidate for the parliament's chairmanship and will most likely win, albeit by a small majority.

The deputy speaker's election was directly or indirectly discussed between the Lebanese Forces (LF), the Progressive Socialist Party, the Kataeb, and other "reformists."

Several candidates affiliated with some parties are being proposed for the position, including former Deputy Prime Minister Ghassan Hasbani of the Lebanese Forces, former Defense Minister Elias Bou Saab of the Free Patriotic Movement, and the former head of the Bar Association, Melhem Khalaf, of the reformists.

The parties denied supporting any candidate, despite unanimously agreeing that any figure assuming this position must have specific criteria.

Other nominees include MP Ghassan Skaf, who is close to the Progressive Socialist Party, and MP Sagih Attieh, who met with Berri and announced that he was ready to assume the position.

Kataeb MP Elias Hankash noted that the opposition forces must unify their position.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Kataeb did not and will not vote for Berri as Speaker.

However, regarding the election of his deputy, the party is doing its best to agree with other forces and representatives on one candidate, said Hankash.

He indicated that the party has been meeting with other "reformist" lawmakers, reiterating the importance of showing a united front in other matters as well, such as the government and the presidential elections.

Kataeb's politburo warned against compromises and bargains that had prevailed before the elections at the country's expense and its people.

"We reiterate that we would not … vote to any parliament speaker, deputy, prime minister, or president who covers Hezbollah's weapons and defends it under any pretext," it pointed out.

The party also warned against any obstruction and procrastination, saying that the Lebanese have expressed their opinions and everyone must comply with that.

LF head of communication and media Charles Jabbour asserted that different parties are exerting all efforts to agree on a single candidate for the deputy speaker’s post acceptable by all opposition forces.

Jabbour told Asharq Al-Awsat that this would set the foundation for the upcoming stage to agree on the designated prime minister and determine the cabinet that differs from its predecessors.

He asserted that the LF is not concerned with a particular figure but rather clear criteria that must be present in the candidate, which the party's leader previously determined.

LF chief Samir Geagea has announced that his party had set certain criteria for the speaker of parliament that do not apply to Berri, adding that his bloc would not vote for him.

Geagea called on the newly elected lawmakers to chart a new political path by selecting a speaker who would work to "preserve" the state's sovereignty.

"All strategic decision-making should return to the Lebanese state... and security and military matters should be handled exclusively by the Lebanese army," he said.

He pointed out that the same thing applies to the deputy speaker, who must agree to the same commitments.

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