Hardliner Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf re-elected as speaker of Iran's parliament

Hardliner Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf re-elected as speaker of Iran's parliament
Hardliner Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf was re-elected as Iran's parliament speaker on Tuesday with 198 votes, just over a week since the president's death.
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Qalibaf (R) is known for supporting violent crackdowns on Iranians in the past [Getty]

Iran's parliament re-elected hardliner Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf on Tuesday as its speaker, reaffirming its hard-right makeup in the wake of a helicopter crash that killed the country's president and foreign minister.

Of 287 lawmakers voting, 198 backed Qalibaf to retain the position he first took in 2021. He initially became speaker following a string of failed presidential bids and 12 years as the leader of Iran’s capital city, in which he built onto Tehran’s subway and supported the construction of modern high-rises.

Many, however, know Qalibaf for his support, as a Revolutionary Guard general, for a violent crackdown on Iranian university students in 1999. He also reportedly ordered live gunfire to be used against Iranian students in 2003 while serving as the country’s police chief.

In Tuesday's vote, challenger Mojtaba Zonnouri, a hardline Shia cleric who once led the parliament's national security commission, won 60 votes. A former foreign minister to hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Manouchehr Mottaki, received five votes.

Qalibaf offered no immediate remarks after the vote. The March parliament election saw the country’s lowest turnout since its 1979 Islamic Revolution. Of those elected to the 290-seat body, hardliners hold over 230 seats, according to an Associated Press survey.

A trained pilot, Qalibaf served in the paramilitary Guard during the country’s bloody 1980s war with Iraq. After the conflict, he served as the head of the Guard’s construction arm, Khatam al-Anbia, for several years leading efforts to rebuild.

Qalibaf then served as the head of the Guard’s air force, when in 1999 he co-signed a letter to reformist President Mohammad Khatami amid student protests in Tehran over the government closing a reformist newspaper and a subsequent security force crackdown. The letter warned Khatami the Guard would take action unilaterally unless he agreed to put down the demonstrations.

Violence around the protests saw several killed, hundreds wounded and thousands arrested.

Qalibaf then served as the head of Iran’s police, modernising the force and implementing the country’s 110 emergency phone number. However, a leaked recording of a later meeting between Qalibaf and members of the Guard’s volunteer Basij force, included him claiming that he ordered gunfire be used against demonstrators in 2003, as well as praising the violence used in Iran’s 2009 Green Movement protests .

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Qalibaf ran failed presidential campaigns in 2005, 2013 and 2017, the last of which saw him withdraw in support of the hardliner Ebrahim Raisi. Raisi later became president and died in the May 19 helicopter crash that also killed Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and six others.

Iran’s parliament plays a secondary role in governing the country, though it can intensify pressure on a presidential administration when deciding on the annual budget and other important bills. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 85, has the final say in all important state matters.

Iran will hold presidential elections on June 28 to replace Raisi. On Thursday, a five-day registration period for candidates will open.