Iran lawmakers to vote on impeaching two more ministers

Tehran (AFP) –


Iran's parliament launched impeachment proceedings against two more cabinet ministers on Wednesday, as opponents of President Hassan Rouhani piled further pressure on his government.

The labour and economy ministers have already been sacked by parliament this month and, on Tuesday, Rouhani faced his first grilling by lawmakers in his five years in power.

Conservative opponents of the president, a political moderate, appear keen to drive home their advantage in the wake of a deepening economic crisis triggered by the reimposition of US sanctions.

On Wednesday, 20 members of parliament signed a motion to summon Education Minister Mohammad Bathaei, who must now appear within 10 days to face questions and an impeachment vote.

On Tuesday, two other groups of MPs presented motions to impeach the minister of industry, mines and business, Mohammad Shariatmadari.

Rouhani faced tough questions over his handling of the economy when he appeared before lawmakers on Tuesday.

In voting at the end of the session, lawmakers declared they were unsatisfied with his answers to four of their five questions, covering unemployment, smuggling and the collapsing value of the Iranian rial.

Under parliamentary rules, the issues could then have been referred for judicial review, but parliament speaker Ali Larijani -- a close ally of Rouhani -- said on Wednesday there were no legal grounds for doing so.

Parliament can theoretically impeach Rouhani, but he is protected by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has said removing the president would "play into the hands of the enemy".

In a speech at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Khamenei urged lawmakers to work "day and night" to resolve the country's economic problems.

Rouhani has been greatly weakened by the Washington's reimposition of sanctions following its withdrawal from a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers, which has undone his plans to attract much-needed foreign investment.

Since President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal in May, almost all major foreign firms operating in Iran have announced they are leaving, and further pain is expected in November when Washington reimposes sanctions on Iran's crucial oil sector.

The motion to impeach the industries minister cited high inflation, particularly in the car industry.

Those seeking to impeach the education minister focused on a series of issues linked to school budgets, the curriculum and alleged mismanagement.