Iran’s Hard-Line Parliament Speaker Mohammad Qalibaf Registers as Presidential Candidate

Iran's hard-line parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf waves to the media at the conclusion of a press briefing after registering his name as a candidate for the June 28 presidential election at the Interior Ministry, in Tehran, Iran, Monday, June 3, 2024. (AP)
Iran's hard-line parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf waves to the media at the conclusion of a press briefing after registering his name as a candidate for the June 28 presidential election at the Interior Ministry, in Tehran, Iran, Monday, June 3, 2024. (AP)
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Iran’s Hard-Line Parliament Speaker Mohammad Qalibaf Registers as Presidential Candidate

Iran's hard-line parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf waves to the media at the conclusion of a press briefing after registering his name as a candidate for the June 28 presidential election at the Interior Ministry, in Tehran, Iran, Monday, June 3, 2024. (AP)
Iran's hard-line parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf waves to the media at the conclusion of a press briefing after registering his name as a candidate for the June 28 presidential election at the Interior Ministry, in Tehran, Iran, Monday, June 3, 2024. (AP)

Iran’s hard-line parliament speaker registered Monday for country’s June 28 presidential election, the last day for aspirants to enter the race.

The entry of Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf brings a prominent candidate with close ties to the country's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard into the vote to replace President Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash with seven others on May 19.

The election comes at a time of heightened tensions between Iran and the West over Tehran’s rapidly advancing nuclear program, its arming of Russia in that country's war on Ukraine and its wide-reaching crackdowns on dissent. Meanwhile, Iran’s support of militia proxy forces throughout the wider Middle East have been in increased focus as Yemen’s Houthi militias attack ships in the Red Sea over the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.

Qalibaf, 62, initially became speaker following a string of failed presidential bids and 12 years as the leader of Iran’s capital city, during which he built onto Tehran’s subway and supported the construction of modern high-rises. He was recently re-elected as speaker.

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.

Qalibaf ran unsuccessfully for president in 2005 and 2013. He withdrew from the 2017 presidential campaign.

Speaking to journalists after his registration, Qalibaf said he would continue along the same path as Raisi and the late Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, a figure revered by many in Iran after his 2020 killing in a US drone strike.

Qalibaf insisted he would not allow “another round of mismanagement” to happen in the country and mentioned poverty and price pressures affecting Iranians as the country strains under international sanctions.

“If I didn't register, the work we have started for resolving economic issues of the people in the popular government (of Raisi) and the revolutionary parliament, and is now at the stage of fruition, will remain unfinished," Qalibaf said.

However, it remains unclear what those plans actually would entail as Iran's rial currency again nears 600,000 to the dollar. The currency had been trading at 32,000 rials to the dollar when Tehran signed the 2015 nuclear accord with world powers.

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 Ali Khamenei, 85, has the final say in all important state matters.

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, during which in 1999 he co-signed a letter to reformist President Mohammad Khatami amid student protests in Tehran over the government closing of a reformist newspaper and a subsequent security force crackdown. The letter warned Khatami that 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, modernizing 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.

Among those already registered are hard-line former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, another former parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, and former Iranian Central Bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati, who also ran in 2021.

More candidates may yet emerge. The country’s acting president, Mohammad Mokhber, previously a behind-the-scenes bureaucrat, could be the front-runner because he has already been seen meeting with Khamenei. Also discussed as a possible aspirant is the former reformist, Khatami.

But it remains unlikely Iran's Shiite theocracy will allow Ahmadinejad or Khatami them to run. A 12-member Guardian Council, a panel of clerics and jurists ultimately overseen by Khamenei, will decide on a final candidate list. That panel has never accepted a woman or anyone calling for radical change to the country’s governance.



Internet Hasn't Been Restored in Bangladesh despite Apparent Calm Following Deadly Protests

Bangladeshi soldiers stand guard at the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, amid the anti-quota protests in Dhaka on July 21, 2024. (Photo by Munir UZ ZAMAN / AFP)
Bangladeshi soldiers stand guard at the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, amid the anti-quota protests in Dhaka on July 21, 2024. (Photo by Munir UZ ZAMAN / AFP)
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Internet Hasn't Been Restored in Bangladesh despite Apparent Calm Following Deadly Protests

Bangladeshi soldiers stand guard at the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, amid the anti-quota protests in Dhaka on July 21, 2024. (Photo by Munir UZ ZAMAN / AFP)
Bangladeshi soldiers stand guard at the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, amid the anti-quota protests in Dhaka on July 21, 2024. (Photo by Munir UZ ZAMAN / AFP)

Internet and mobile data services are still down despite apparent calm in Bangladesh following a verdict that scaled back a controversial quota system for government jobs after weeks of relentless protests that turned deadly.
The government has also declared Monday a public holiday, with only essential services running. This comes after a curfew with a shoot-on-sight order was installed days earlier and military personnel could be seen patrolling the capital and other areas, The Associated Press said.
The South Asian country witnessed clashes between the police and mainly student protesters demanding an end to a quota that reserved 30% of government jobs for relatives of veterans who fought in Bangladesh’s war of independence in 1971.
The violence has killed more than a hundred people, according to at least four local newspapers. Authorities have not so far shared official figures for deaths. On Thursday, communications were cut off as tensions escalated.
There was no immediate violence reported on Monday morning after the Supreme Court ordered the veterans’ quota to be cut to 5%, with 93% of jobs allocated on merit, the day before. The remaining 2% will be set aside for members of ethnic minorities as well as transgender and disabled people.
On Sunday night, some student protesters urged the government to restore internet services. Hasnat Abdullah, a coordinator of the Anti-Discrimination Student Movement, told the Associated Press that they were withdrawing their calls for a complete shutdown, which they attempted to impose last week.
“But we are issuing an ultimatum for 48 hours to stop the digital crackdown and restore internet connectivity,” he said, adding that security officials deployed at various universities should be withdrawn, student dormitories reopened and steps taken so students can return to their campuses safely. Abdullah also said they wanted the government to end the curfew and ensure the country was back to normal within two days.
Students have also demanded some university officials to step down after failing to protect campuses. Sarjis Alam, another coordinator of the Anti-Discrimination Student Movement, said that they would continue with their protests if all their demands weren't met. “We cannot step back from our movement like a coward,” he added.
Another key organizer of the student protests, Nahid Islam, told reporters that the internet shutdown had disrupted their ability to communicate and alleged that authorities were trying to create divisions among protesters. “I am mentally traumatized ... our unity is being destroyed,” he said.
The US Embassy in the capital Dhaka described Sunday the situation as “extremely volatile” and “unpredictable,” adding that guns, tear gas and other weapons have been used in the vicinity of the embassy. They said the Bangladeshi army had been deployed and urged Americans to be vigilant, avoid large crowds and reconsider travel plans.
The protests have posed the most serious challenge to Bangladesh’s government since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina won a fourth consecutive term in January elections that the main opposition groups boycotted. Universities have been closed, the internet has been shut off and the government has ordered people to stay at home.
Protesters had argued the quota system was discriminatory and benefited supporters of Hasina, whose Awami League party led the independence movement, and wanted it replaced by a merit-based system. Hasina has defended the quota system, saying that veterans deserve the highest respect regardless of political affiliation.
The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party has backed the protests, vowing to organize its own demonstrations as many of its supporters joined the student-led protests.
The Awami League and the BNP have often accused each other of fueling political chaos and violence, most recently ahead of the country’s national election, which was marred by a crackdown on several opposition figures.