On May 31, lawmakers re-elected conservative Ali Larijani as Speaker of Parliament. He has held the position since 2008. Larijani received 237 votes out of 273. A reformist lawmaker, Mostafa Kavakebian came in at a distant second with 11 votes. Larijani’s main competitor for the speakership, Mohammad Reza Aref, did not end up running. In the 2016 parliamentary election, Aref, a former vice president under Mohammad Khatami, headed the “List of Hope,” a coalition that included reformists and centrists who support Rouhani. On May 29, Aref lost the vote for the temporary speakership, receiving 103 votes compared to Larijani’s 173 votes. He withdrew his candidacy for the permanent speakership the following day.
Aref’s allies, however, did win the elections to become deputy speakers of the Majles (Parliament). Masoud Pezeskhian, a reformist lawmaker from Tabriz, received 158 votes to become the First Vice Speaker of the Majles. Ali Motahari, a moderate conservative who also ran on the List of Hope, received 133 votes to become the Second Vice Speaker.
Overall, a significant shift in domestic politics is unlikely to occur given Larijani’s victory along with the recent election of hardliner cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati as chairman of the Assembly of Experts. That body will eventually choose Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s successor, the next supreme leader. The following are profiles of Larijani and Motahari.
Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani
Ali Larijani, a conservative who ran as an independent, won his seat from the holy city of Qom. He served as Speaker of Parliament between 2008 and 2016. Many of his allies did not win reelection. As election results were announced in February, Larijani praised
the rotation of political power from one group to another as an auspicious development. Larijani is considered a principlist
, but more pragmatic than other hardliners. He opted not to join the main list of hardliners for the election. In Tehran, the Grand Coalition of Principlists failed to win any seats while the “List of Hope” won all 30. “I feel our friends in the [conservative coalition] have not provided the necessary mechanisms for the creation of unity,” he said. “Therefore we seek to act independently.” Yet he won
the backing of Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Qods Force, who cited Larijani’s long support of “revolutionary movements.”
Born in 1957, Larijani is the son of Ayatollah Mirza Hashem Amoli and son-in-law of Ayatollah Morteza Motahari. His father was a prominent religious authority. Larijani studied mathematics and computer science at Sharif University of Technology. He earned advanced degrees
in philosophy from Tehran University. After serving as a commander in the Revolutionary Guards, he held a variety of positions in the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, and the Ministry of Telecommunications. From 1991 to 1993, he served as Minister of Guidance and Islamic Culture. From 1994 to 2004, he was President of IRIB.
In 2004, Larijani became an advisor to Khamenei. In 2005, he made an unsuccessful run for president. Later that year, Khamenei appointed him Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, replacing Rouhani. In that capacity, Larijani acted as lead negotiator on Iran’s nuclear program. But he resigned
in 2007, reportedly over tactical disagreements with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over the nuclear talks. In 2008, Larijani ran for Parliament and won a seat representing Qom. He went on to become Speaker of Parliament and held the position for two sessions. Larijani is also a member of the Expediency Council.
Larijani has been attacked by hardliners for cooperating with Rouhani’s government in recent years. He supported the nuclear deal between Iran and the world’s six major powers, referring
to it as a “national achievement” even though Iran did not get everything it wanted
. In May 2016, he lauded
the Rouhani administration for acting more lawfully and more cooperatively with Parliament than the Ahmadinejad administration. Larijani favors consensus in politics and could act as a broker
between hardliners and the other factions.
Second Vice Speaker of Parliament Ali Motahari
Ali Motahari is a moderate conservative who fielded his own independent list called “Voice of the Nation.” His name was also included on the “List of Hope.” He could become a kingmaker in the next Parliament because he straddles reformists and hardliners. In an interview
before the elections, he said that hardliners do not place enough emphasis on freedoms while reformists do not pay enough attention to cultural issues. He has criticized the government for putting the two Green Movement leaders and former presidential candidates, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, under house arrest in 2011. Although he has taken a conservative stance on cultural issues, like the dress code for women, Motahari has largely been supportive of President Rouhani. In March 2015, he was physically attacked
by alleged hardliner critics.
Born in 1958, Motahari is the son of the late Ayatollah Morteza Motahari, a leading theologian and political activist who was close to revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. He is also the brother-in-law of Ali Larijani. Motahari studied mathematics and mechanical engineering at the University of Tabriz. He worked at IRIB and studied philosophy at the graduate level before going on to publish books and academic articles and eventually teach at various universities. In 2008, he ran for Parliament and won a seat representing Tehran. Motahari was a fierce critic of Ahmadinejad.
Motahari is known for being outspoken. After the post-election disqualification of Minoo Khaleghi, a female reformist candidate from Isfahan, he called for her reinstatement. The Guardian Council did not give an official reason for her disqualification, although some have speculated that a photo of her shaking hands with a man and not wearing a hijab might have triggered the decision. Critics of the disqualification argued that the Guardian Council does not have the power to disqualify someone after an election. Motahari said that the Interior Ministry must allow Khaleghi to take her seat or else Parliament will impeach the interior minister. He wrote an open letter to the Guardian Council head, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, insisting on her reinstatement.
Click here for more information on other key players in the new Majles.