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Iran Hardliners Renew Attack On Rouhani, Call for An Unlikely Impeachment

Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani, seated at center, speaks with a group of lawmakers in a session of parliament in Tehran, Iran, on Dec 02, 2018.

A Fars news agency report which has been later retracted, said 14 members of the Iranian Parliament (Majles) have tabled a motion to impeach President Hassan Rouhani.

Meanwhile, the spokesman for the Iranian Judiciary, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei said on Sunday February 17 that an indictment has been issued against the president's brother Hossein Fereydoun, and he has to attend the first court hearing soon. The President's brother was briefly jailed on the charges of financial corruption last year, but was released on bail for medical reasons.

The two developments appear to be parts of yet another onslaught by Iran's hardline conservatives against the country's moderate conservative president.

The attacks on Rouhani are taking place at a time when political fragmentation in Iran and international pressures on the country have escalated in recent weeks following a conference in Warsaw and Munich. Most speakers, including dozens of chief diplomats and political figures from Europe and the United states, at both events condemned Iran for its military ambitions including its ballistic missile program and its support for militants.

Iranian hardline ember of parliament from the city of Qom, Mojtaba Zolnour. File photo
Iranian hardline ember of parliament from the city of Qom, Mojtaba Zolnour. File photo

According to the Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA), hardline MP for Qom Mojtaba Zolnour, has been collecting signatures at the Majles in support of president’s impeachment. The motion accuses the Rouhani administration of inefficiency in 14 different areas including "failure to tackle unemployment, mismanagement in controlling the forex market, doing harm to national interests, and failure to control prices."

A similar motion had been tabled last year, but MPS, were encouraged to give up the idea of impeachment, reportedly by the office of the Supreme Leader.

Entekhab news website, which is close to the Rounahi camp, says the motion has been signed by only 9 members of parliament and that one conservative fraction in Majles is also against the motion.

According to Article 2 of Chapter 89 of the Iranian constitutional Law, "If at least one-third of the members of the Islamic Consultative Assembly [Majles] question the President of the Republic in his capacity as head of the executive power and the nation’s administration, the president must attend the Assembly within a month and give sufficient explanation with regard to the issues. After hearing the members who are for or against the responses of the president, if a two-thirds majority of the members vote for the president’s lack of competence", the result of the vote will be sent to the Supreme leader, ostensibly for him to give his agreement to impeachment.

So, nearly 200 out of a total of 290 MPs need to sign Zolnour's impeachment motion if the move toward an impeachment is to begin. The votes of confidence given to Rouhani's ministers during the past year show that around 140 MPs tend to support Rouhani. Therefore, it is hardly likely that the motion would go any further unless a majority of the MPs get a clear green light from Khamenei to lash out at Rouhani. There is no reason to believe that Khamenei would do so at this time, when both internally and externally Iran is under pressure.

Of course, there might another way of looking at this. The situation for Khamenei is so tough that he needs a victim to be named as the culprit for the country's multiple problems. However, he is probably aware that naming a scapegoat might keep everyone busy for a few weeks, but it most certainly will not solve the complicated and structural issues the country faces.

It is also possible that bringing up impeachment at this time could be a signal from Iran to the West and particularly Europe that if they fail to support the Rouhani administration, hardliners are likely to take over and will eliminate the chance of any rapprochement with Iran in the foreseeable future.

What makes this argument less than solid, is that during the past year, following the arrest of Rouhani's brother and the nationwide protests that shook the regime, the president’s rhetoric has not been too different from the hardliners, so Europeans might need a stronger argument to cling onto in order help Iran out of its problems.