TEHRAN (Dispatches) -- Iran’s newly formed parliament on Thursday elected former Tehran mayor Muhammad-Baqer Qalibaf as its speaker, prompting Western news agencies to express worries over the shift of "the political balance toward conservatives” who are against concessions and submission to the West.
The 58-year-old received 230 votes out of the 267 cast to secure what is one of the most influential positions in the Islamic Republic.
Qalibaf is a three-time presidential candidate, former police chief and member of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) who served as Tehran mayor from 2005 to 2017.
He received the most votes from the capital in February’s parliamentary election as an alliance of principalists swept the polls.
The parliament, which shapes debate in Iran, had been closed for six weeks until April 7 as part of measures aiming to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Thursday’s vote saw Qalibaf succeed Ali Larijani, who had held the post since 2008.
The new parliament started its work on Wednesday with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raeisi, and Secretary of the Guardian Council Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati in attendance.
In a message to the new legislature, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei highlighted culture and economy as the country’s most pressing issues, which require the legislature’s highest-level of attention.
In a message, President Rouhan congratulated Qalibaf and hoped for close cooperation and constructive interaction between his administration and the new parliament.
Messages of congratulation also poured in from abroad.
"We wish that your parliament sessions in the new term will result in good consequences in terms of friendship and good neighborly relations between Iranian people and our country,” Turkish Parliament speaker Mustafa Sentop said as he invited Qalibaf to Ankara, Daily Sabah reported Friday.
Sentop said Turkey welcomes expansion of cordial relations in various political, economic, cultural and parliamentary fields with Iran. He expressed hope that Tehran and Ankara would further increase trade and economic exchanges.
Qalibaf said the Islamic Republic and Turkey should further boost regional cooperation with the purpose of promoting peace and sustainable development.
He also stressed the importance of reinforcing unity and solidarity among Muslim nations to thwart the Israeli regime’s plots.
Iran and Turkey, he said, have always enjoyed "friendly relations at the highest level”.
Qalibaf said the Iranian parliament is ready to take any measure to expand mutual relations, particularly in the economic field, adding a parliamentary friendship group would be set up in the near future.
The Iranian speaker not only directs the parliament’s affairs but also has a seat at the High Council of Economic Coordination alongside the president and judiciary chief.
Established in 2018 by the Supreme Leader’s decree, the Council is the highest authority on economic affairs and is meant to combat the impact of United States’ sanctions imposed on Iran.
U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from a landmark nuclear agreement and reimposed sanctions on Iran in 2018, mainly targeting the crucial oil and banking sectors.