In the midst of the Islamic Republic’s political landscape, a Shakespearean drama unfolds, with top characters from within Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s inner circle.
The central figures in this unfolding narrative are President Ebrahim Raisi, Khamenei’s obedient, handpicked functionary, and former police chief and air force pilot, IRGC General Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, who has transitioned into politics, most recently holding the position of Speaker of the Iranian Parliament (Majles).
This ongoing rivalry between the two protagonists is characterized by a level of animosity that seemingly leaves no room for compromise, resembling a “it’s either me or you, or both of us must fall” scenario.
Superficially, the drama, as explained in a Khabar Online report, revolves around, among other things, the parliament rejection of the President Raisi’s seventh five-year development plan and changes to the government’s Hijab law beyond recognition. According to Khabar Online, the Majles has handled government bills in a manner that suggests a lack of faith in the Raisi administration’s ability to draft effective legislation.
In recent months, Raisi has written several letters to Khamenei, expressing his grievances regarding the parliament and its Speaker’s conduct. Other high-ranking officials, such as Expediency Council Chief Sadeq Amoli Larijani, have also noted that Raisi tends to seek solutions from Khamenei for his government’s issues with other officials.
However, it is no simple task the Supreme Leader to decide about the dispute between two of his key obedient officials. Previous governments did not unquestioningly implement all of Khamenei’s orders and shoulder all the blame for policy failures without complaint.
Furthermore, Ghalibaf is not just a regime member; he is also a relative who holds a closer connection to Khamenei’s wife and his ambitious son, Mojtaba. This dynamic makes it exceedingly challenging for Khamenei to discipline Ghalibaf, who has demonstrated unwavering loyalty when it comes to suppressing dissent and protests, regardless of his government position.
At a deeper level, however, the antagonism is something more than administrative and legislative disputes between the heads of two of the three branches of the Islamic Republic government.
Based on other Iranian media reports, Ghalibaf has still not stomached the fact that he was forced by Khamenei’s office to step down as the most popular conservative candidate in the 2017 presidential election in order to raise Raisi’s profile and give him a chance to win the election against moderate Hassan Rouhani. During that election, the ultraconservative Paydari Party decided to take advantage of Ghalibaf’s absence and continued to support its own candidate, former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, in competition with Raisi and Rouhani.
Paydari Party was convinced that Ghalibaf was the most popular candidate among the trio and believed that in his absence their candidate Jalili was able to win the election. But as it turned out, not only he failed to win the election, his instance on remaining in the race fragmented the conservative vote, leading to Hassan Rouhani’s victory. Ghalibaf’s hard feelings against Raisi and Jalili has continued to date.
Reports suggest Paydari is actively preparing candidates for both the parliamentary elections in March 2024 and the presidential election in June 2025. The party’s ideal candidate for the parliament is Paydari leader Sadeq Mahsouli, and its man to compete for the next presidency is no one other than Saeed Jalili.
Paydari’s hope to win the Majles and the post of its speaker appears to be more realistic than its plans for presidency. Although almost every politician in Iran agrees that Raisi’s track record in his first four years in office leaves no room for his at the presidential office in 2025, there is no indication yet of Khamenei’s inclination to kick Raisi out of the core of his government. Against all odds, he is more likely to be allowed to run and win the next presidential elections.
While Paydari’s prospects for winning the Majles and securing the Speaker’s position appear promising, their presidential ambitions are more challenging. Although most Iranian politicians agree that Raisi’s track record during his first term leaves little room for his re-election in 2025, there are no indications of Khamenei’s inclination to oust Raisi from the heart of his government. Despite the odds, Raisi is more likely to be permitted to run and potentially win the next presidential election.
However, Paydari has previously demonstrated its power to secure the Speaker’s position in the Majles. Currently, Ghalibaf has retained this role by making several concessions, including assigning all presidium positions to Paydari. Nevertheless, relations between the party and Ghalibaf have deteriorated, and Ghalibaf prefers to run for the presidency rather than remain a member of the parliament. As far as he is concerned, post-2025, it will be either him or Raisi in the political spotlight.
Source » iranintl