Iran’s parliament elected a former mayor of Tehran tied to the Revolutionary Guard as its next speaker, solidifying hardline control of the body as tensions between the US and the Islamic Republic remain high over its collapsed nuclear deal.
Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf’s assumption of power comes after a string of failed presidential bids and 12 years as the leader of Iran’s capital city, in which he built onto Tehran’s underground and supported the construction of modern high-rises.
Many, however, remember Mr 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 be used against Iranian students in 2003 while serving as the country’s police chief.
“It is time to thank all representatives, all workers at the parliament complex, experts, managers, security forces and services,” Mr Qalibaf said, promising to give a speech on Sunday.
Mr Qalibaf’s candidacy received 230 votes from the 264 politicians present in the parliament in the first round of voting, state television reported.
Parliament has 290 seats.
Mr Qalibaf, 58, replaces Ali Larijani, who served as the parliament’s speaker from 2008 until this May.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed Mr Larijani as an adviser and a member of the country’s Expediency Council on Thursday, state TV reported.
As speaker, Mr Qalibaf leads a body that can debate Iran’s annual budget and push for the impeachment of government ministers.
However, laws passed by the parliament must be approved by a 12-member Guardian Council and Mr Khamenei holds final say on all matters of state.
The position also puts Mr Qalibaf onto Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, the country’s highest level body that handles defence and nuclear issues.
That takes on new importance as the US withdrew waivers from Iran’s nuclear programme late Wednesday and as tensions between the two nations remain high.
A trained pilot, Mr 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.
Mr 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 Mr Khatami the Guard would take action unilaterally unless he agreed to putting down the demonstrations.