JEDDAH: Iran’s Parliament subjected President Hassan Rouhani to a live public grilling on Tuesday over the country’s collapsing economy — then rejected his answers and referred him to the judiciary.
Rouhani blamed US sanctions rather than government incompetence for Iran’s economic debacle. But he admitted: “Many people have lost their faith in the future of the Islamic Republic and are in doubt about its power.”
MPs had demanded explanations for soaring unemployment, slow economic growth, the plunging value of the rial, cross-border smuggling, and the lack of access by banks to global financial services.
In a vote, they found only Rouhani’s answer about banks satisfactory. The judiciary could rule that he broke the law and Parliament has the power to dismiss him.
The vote in Parliament came two days after MPs fired Finance Minister Masoud Karbasian and three weeks after they dismissed Labor Minister Ali Rabiei. At least 70 MPs have also signed a motion to fire Industry Minister Mohammad Shariatmadari.
“The Parliament’s move is politically motivated and indicates that tensions will increase in the Islamic Republic in coming months,” said Saeed Laylaz, an Iranian economist.
The US reimposed sanctions in August targeting Iran’s gold trade, motor industry and access to US dollars. Worse will come in November when the US aims to cut Iran’s oil exports to zero.
The plunge in the currency and soaring inflation have sparked street demonstrations against profiteering and corruption, with many protesters demanding regime change.
In a further blow to the president, European support for the 2015 nuclear deal after US withdrawal and the reimposition of sanctions appeared to be crumbling.
France, which has been leading efforts to defy US sanctions and salvage trade ties with Tehran, banned its diplomats from non-essential travel to Iran. Among the reasons given for the ban was a foiled Iranian plot in June to bomb a rally near Paris held by an exiled opposition group.
“The behavior of the Iranian authorities suggests a hardening of their position vis-a-vis our country, as well as some of our allies,” French Foreign Ministry Secretary-General Maurice Gourdault-Montagne said in a memo to staff.
Detailed coverage: Parliament censures Rouhani in sign pragmatists losing sway