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Iran's hard-line parliament speaker Mohammad Qalibaf registers as a presidential candidate

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran’s hard-line parliament speaker registered Monday for country’s June 28 presidential election.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran’s hard-line parliament speaker registered Monday for country’s June 28 presidential election.

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

The race 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 rebels 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.

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.

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.


Associated Press writer Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report.

Jon Gambrell, The Associated Press