Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf

Khamenei Allegedly Assures Ghalibaf of Next Parliament Leadership

Thursday, 05/09/2024

An Iranian cleric says that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has assured embattled Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf that he will keep his position as the Speaker of Iran's Parliament, amid a push by hardliners to unseat him.

Abbas Amirifar told reporters in Tehran that Ghalibaf was determined to resign as a member of parliament, but after a meeting with a high-ranking regime official (jargon used to refer to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei) he has been assured that he can keep his position as the speaker of the Majles.

Amirifar is known as a fundamentalist cleric and the former “exorcist” of ex-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"The official told him to remain in his position and continue to lead the parliament," Amirifar said, adding that "I am sure that he will retain his position and will win the necessary votes of parliament members."

While Iranians generally show no interest in the issue, distrusting the system altogether since the highly manipulated March 1 parliamentary election, there has been a fierce competition among several hardline lawmakers to win the Speaker's seat. However, the pressure by some of the new MPs to dethrone Ghalibaf is so immense that the incumbent reportedly decided to resign and prepare to run for the next presidential election next year instead.

Iran International has named potential candidates for the post as Ghalibaf, Paydari Party leaders Morteza Agha-Tehrani and Sadeq Mahsouli, as well as outspoken Hamid Rasaei, adding that they have been pushing their own campaign for the election of the Speaker. However, the report pointed out that Khamenei's intervention will always be a possibility as it has been in several cases in the past.

According to Amirifar, the decision has already been made, and other contestants may compete to become Ghalibaf's deputies. Although neither Khamenei, nor Ghalibaf have denied Amirifar's account, it is still not clear whether this is a fabrication by Ghalibaf or the exorcist who might have been hired by him.

A leading conservative politician, former lawmaker Hossein Naqavi Hosseini has said in an interview with Khabar online website that "It is humiliating for a lawmaker to say that he would resign if he cannot be the Speaker of the Majles."

Referring to the campaigns of at least two of the contestants - Ghalibaf who threw a large banquet to garner support from among the newly elected MPs last week, and Hamid Rasaei, who has promised to give them houses and cars if he is elected - Hosseini said: "I thought campaigning by throwing banquets belong to the past."

Hosseini, pointing out that Ghalibaf faces an uphill battle, named two other serious contestants for the post: Former Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, a politician no one takes seriously after he was removed from his post by Ahmadinejad in 2010, and Mojtaba Zolnouri, a lawmaker from Qom who has had too many blunders during his career as a member of parliament.

Hosseini pointed out that since halfway through his career as Majles Speaker, a powerful opposition has been formed in against Ghalibaf. During the final months of the current Majles it has become evident that there is also a serious rift between Ghalibaf and President Ebrahim Raisi, who is Khamenei's favorite official. All of Ghalibaf's political rivals happen to be close to the Raisi administration.

It is quite clear from the dynamics between Ghalibaf and his rivals that not all of them will stop their ambitions if Khamenei makes it clear that he wants Ghalibaf in the post. For instance, Rasaei has twice ignored Khamenei's advice for lawmakers to tame their ambitions and stop infighting. Meanwhile, Khamenei cannot publicly issue an order in Ghalibaf's support and undermine even the appearance of lawful processes at the parliament.

What could potentially work in Ghalibaf's favor is Khamenei's lack of trust in other candidates for the position, most of whom hail from the ultraconservative Paydari Party. While this party generally adheres to formalities, it has demonstrated a tendency to occasionally defy Khamenei's directives. Khamenei has not forgotten how ungrateful Ahmadinejad, Paydari's previous champion, treated him. The competition for the Speaker's seat is partly a move in the succession process after Khamenei, where shifts in loyalties play a pivotal yet unpredictable role.

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