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Rouhani Refuses To Submit Annual Report To Parliament Amid Economic Crisis

File photo - President Hassan Rohani speaks at the Iranian Parliament as lawmakers seem to pay little attention to his speech, August 28, 2018

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has voiced his opposition to having to respond to Parliament's questions about his performance in a letter to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Iran's state TV reported on Sunday July 28.

The Speaker of Iran's Parliament (Majles) has quoted Rouhani as saying in the letter that presenting annual reports to the Majles by his administration is against the law.

Rouhani pointed out that it is only the internal regulations of the Majles, and not the Constitution that calls for the report.

It is not still known how this flaw in the procedures did not stop various administrations, including the Rouhani administration in the past from reporting to the Majles and why Rouhani never said anything about this during the past seven years.

Having served as member of the Iranian Parliament for five terms (20 years), Rouhani is well aware that lawmakers will seize the opportunity to blame him and his administration for the failures of the ruling system and at the same time prove their efficiency and power to voters, ahead of the upcoming Majles elections.

Seven months before the election, a weak administration's presence at the Majles will provide incumbent MPs who wish to run for the Majles again in February 2020 with an exceptional opportunity to present themselves as strong characters who can challenge Rouhani and come out of the questioning session victoriously.

The economic crisis prevailing in the country would make it amply easy for lawmakers to score points, while not blaming the Supreme Leader and hardliners for the country's failures.

Rouhani's last annual appearance at the Majles to present his annual report was not satisfactory. According to the Tehran Times newspaper on August 28, 2018, "Rouhani appeared before the Majlis to answer lawmakers’ questions, mostly regarding current economic situation. In four out of five questions, Rouhani failed to satisfy the MPs, and the case is probably going to be referred to the Judiciary."

The Tehran Times Observed that "Lawmakers posed questions on his administration’s handling of economic issues, including a high unemployment rate, slow economic growth and a devaluation of national currency rial as well as smuggling of goods and foreign currency," adding that "The lawmakers were also critical of the continuation of banking sanctions against Tehran despite the 2015 nuclear deal -- under which those restrictions should no longer exit."

If that was a failure for Rouhani, this year the situation is more critical, oil exports have come to a near standstill and sanctions on international banking have made it impossible for Tehran to repatriate outstanding oil revenues while the state of the economy inside Iran is alarming for the government and the people.

On the other hand, what Rouhani asked in the letter to Khamenei is another way of repeating his previous demand for more executive powers to tackle the country's economic problems. Khamenei has ignored the request and critics lashed out at Rouhani for not being able to exercise his current powers.

According to Larijani, Khamenei has referred Rouhani's letter to an arbitration council that has not been fully operational due to the death of its chairman, Ayatollah Mahmoud Shahroudi two years ago. Khamenei has still not appointed a new chairman.

In the meantime, Rouhani's critics at the Majles appear to have been emboldened as they see him in a weak position, unable to solve the country's economic crisis and to resolve its major foreign policy challenges in the region and the world.

Lawmakers can conveniently ignore the fact that the presidential administration is not allowed either to tinker with the building blocks of the Islamic Republic's inefficient economic system or its foreign policy.

Hajar Chenarani, MP for Neishabour, has threatened to present damning evidence against ministers if the administration appears at the Majles for reporting, hardline Mashregh News website reported.

Other MPs have been trying to impeach more than a couple of ministers but the motions have been shelved for the time being as the crisis in the Persian Gulf has escalated and the establishment prefers not to signal internal differences at such a critical time.

The annual report by the administration to the Majles has never been a big deal and was often handled as a formality far from the eyes of the media before last year when some MPs decided to take Rouhani to court for failing to fulfil his executive responsibilities, particularly over economic issues.

Rouhani has fallen out with other officials and has not been seen at meetings in the Expediency Council and quite a few other government bodies for months. Now the question is: Will he Boycott the Majles too?