Iran hardliner addresses parliament as newly elected speaker
In his first speech after being elected the new speaker of Iran’s parliament, Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf discussed the myriad of problems facing the 'conservative' political system, in a tacit nod the massive sway held by hardliners after February elections swung the majority heavily in their favour.
He decried what he called authorities’ waning "social capital", which he said was due to "mounting failures" in governance and officials’ departure from the “ideals of the revolution".
The former Revolutionary Guard’s Force commander also took aim at "rampant corruption" in state institutions as well as stifling "bureaucracy".
During his 12-year stint as mayor of Tehran, an appointment endorsed by the Supreme Leader, the lawmaker found himself of numerous of corruption allegations, including $3.5 million in public funds siphoned away to a foundation run by his wife.
Domestic media have accused him and his family appropriating government funds and properties in excess of 2.2 trillion tomans ($702 million)
In his Sunday inaugural address, Qalibaf openly criticised President Hasan Rouhani, whom he had run against in 2017 elections, accusing the latter of abandoning faith in "jihadist governance", which he claimed was the solution to the Islamic Republic’s domestic political challenges.
In 1999, while in command of the IRGC’s air force, Qalibaf wrote a letter to then President Mohammad Khatami amid students protests, warning that the guard would act against unilaterally if the administration remained silent. The ensuing violence saw several killed, hundreds wounded and thousands arrested.
On the issue of Iran's volatile international standing, Qalibaf said that negotiations with the US – "the axis of global arrogance" - would be futile.
Echoing numerous calls from the conservative political establishment, he vowed revenge for the drone attack in January that killed Mr Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the IRGC’s foreign operations arm.
Qalibaf called for ties to be improved with neighbours and with "great powers who were friends with us in hard times and share significant strategic relations", without naming them.
The 58 year-old leader replaces Ali Larijani, who served as the parliament’s speaker from 2008 until this May. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed Larijani as an adviser and a member of the country's Expediency Council on Thursday, state TV reported.
As speaker, he 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, with Khamenei holding final say on all matters of state.
The position also puts him onto Iran's Supreme National Security Council, the country's highest level body that handles defense and nuclear issues, a significant development as the US withdrew waivers from Iran's nuclear program on Wednesday and as tensions remain high.
Analysts see Ghalibaf’s election as a major win for Khamanei, with his appointment is also likely to serve as the backdrop for a likely president campaign.
Agencies contributed to this report.