Factbox: Nabih Berri, veteran of the Lebanese Parliament


Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri leads a parliamentary session at the UNESCO Palace in Beirut, Lebanon October 28, 2021. REUTERS/Aziz Taher/File Photo

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BEIRUT, May 31 (Reuters) – Lebanese Shia Muslim politician Nabih Berri was re-elected speaker of parliament on Tuesday, extending his term in a post he had held since 1992. read more

Here is an overview of his career:

CIVIL WAR

Berri, 84, has led the Shia Amal movement since 1980. Throughout the Lebanese civil war from 1975 to 1990, he led Amal through battles with many other main parties in the conflict. He rose to international prominence in 1985 when he helped negotiate the release of 39 Americans held hostage in Beirut by Shiite militants who had hijacked a TWA plane.

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HEZBOLLAH ALLY

He emerged from the war as one of Lebanon’s most powerful leaders, his influence underpinned by close ties to Damascus – which ruled Beirut from 1990 to 2005 – and the heavily armed, IS-backed Shia group. Iran, Hezbollah.

Berri has evolved in close political collaboration with Hezbollah for years and supports its possession of weapons. Amal and Hezbollah dominate Shiite representation in Lebanon’s sectarian system, in which state positions are divided among faith groups.

IMPERATIVE IN THE FINANCIAL SYSTEM

He has wielded significant influence over the financial policies of a state in economic crisis since 2019 – the result of decades of state corruption and mismanagement. His right-hand man Ali Hassan Khalil served as finance minister from 2014 to 2020, and Berri has since had a decisive say on the choice of Khalil’s two successors.

Berri backed Lebanon’s decision to default on its sovereign debt in 2020 and backed veteran central bank governor Riad Salameh, who has come under fire during the crisis.

Amal was one of many factions that torpedoed a financial recovery plan drawn up by the government in 2020. His ministers also voted against the cabinet recovery roadmap in May 2022, although it was passed.

SUPPORT AND OPPOSITION

His supporters in the Shia community credit him with helping improve their position in a system that had been skewed in favor of other groups after independence in 1943.

But along with other Lebanese leaders, Berri was at the center of protesters’ anger during unprecedented nationwide protests in 2019, reflecting widespread outrage against corruption, bigotry and poor governance.

NO SUCCESSOR

Born in 1938 in Sierra Leone to a family of migrant traders from southern Lebanon, he grew up in Lebanon and was active in politics by the time he was at university. He divorced his first wife, Laila, during the war, and his second wife, Randa, became a public figure. He had 10 children in total, but broke with Lebanon’s dynastic political tradition by not naming any as his political successor.

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Written by Tom Perry; Editing by Maya Gebeily and Raissa Kasolowsky

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