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Khamenei Strikes A Balance, Telling Iran's Parliament Not To Impeach Rouhani

A photo showing Ali Khamenei in his COVID seclusion addressing parliament via video link. July 12, 2020

In a rare address to the Iranian parliament (Majles), Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has made it clear that impeaching President Hassan Rouhani is out of the question.

Speaking via video link on Sunday July 12, Khamenei said: "I strongly believe that governments should carry on doing their job until the last day of their term of office." He also advised that the Rouhani administration "should not slow down its momentum by any means."

Iran's Supreme Leader has not been among politicians or the public since the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic in Iran in mid-February. He is thought to be in total isolation and protected from exposure to the virus.

Khamenei pointed out that "a confrontational atmosphere in the leadership of the government institutions will do harm to public opinion." He advised that "as the administration is spending its last year in office while the Majles has just started its first year, the legislative and executive branches should avoid damaging behavior."

In early July some 200 MPs tabled a motion to question Rouhani's performance in foreign policy, particularly about the failing nuclear deal with world powers and they strongly criticized 25-year-long pact with China.

Later, 130 members of the parliament went a step further beginning a motion to impeach Rouhani for his failures in the area of economy, foreign policy and tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some of the new MPs who entered the Majles in May had threatened in their election campaign to impeach Rouhani and take him to court for failing to fulfil his election promises particularly in the area of economy.

Khamenei's speech which was made to a closed-door session appears to have been more clearly against any move that would question the administration's authority and legitimacy. Later, the speech was published for all to see.

Last week, in a controversial session the Majles heckled Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, signalling the way it was going to go about weakening the Rouhani administration.

Khamenei told the lawmakers to avoid insulting and accusing cabinet ministers. Members of the parliament had called Zarif a "liar" and a "coward" in the controversial session.

Regime insiders on social media pointed out during the past days that apart from Khamenei's opposition to the idea of impeaching Rouhani, the logistics for replacing an unseated president would take something around nine months, while Rouhani will be automatically out of office in a matter of 10 months. They argued that the motion was not worth the political chaos that would be created in the process of impeachment.

In another part of his speech, Khamenei reiterated that Iran's "ailing economy" should not pin its hope on foreign actors. However, he did not say anything about the controversial economic cooperation pact with China which is said to put the country's resources and territory at the disposal of the Chines for 25 years.

However, unlike his previous statements about the economy, Khamenei did not repeat his usual jargon about "jihadist economy" being "a remedy for Iran's economic problems."

He called the current parliament "the strongest and the most revolutionary Iranian parliament of all times and said the turnout in the Majles election was acceptable.

The Majles election in February had the lowest turnout in the past 40 years, with the figure for Tehran being barely over 20 percent, while the national turnout was around 42.4 percent.

Elsewhere in his speech, Khamenei referred to student protests in July 1999 and nationwide protests June 2009 but concluded oddly that those protests disappointed the country's enemies.

The 1999 protests were against the restriction of press freedom by the Islamic government and the massive 2009 demonstrations were against a presidential election that was rigged by the IRGC and other hardliners close to Khamenei. Both protests were violently suppressed, while the Islamic regime's security forces killed tens f protesters and sent hundreds of others to jail.

Khamenei's speech on Sunday is likely to disappoint the nation regarding the possibility of any change after the Rouhani administration, and at the same time, it made Rouhani and his ministers utterly indebted to Khamenei, reducing the likelihood of voicing any demand for political change in the people's interest from within the government.