Iran’s parliament has referred President Hassan Rouhani to the country’s judiciary after he failed to impress legislators with his explanation of his government’s handling of Iran‘s economic struggles.
Rouhani was summoned by parliament on Tuesday for the first time since taking power five years ago to answer questions on a range of economic issues, including unemployment and inflation.
In voting after the session, which was broadcast live on state television, MPs expressed dissatisfaction with four out of five of Rouhani’s responses.
The leader has been under intense pressure since US President Donald Trump withdrew from a landmark nuclear deal between Iran and several world powers, worsening an economic crisis and sparkings a series of domestic protests.
In Tuesday’s session, he blamed Iran’s economic woes on an “American conspiracy” and urged parliament to support his cabinet.
“There is an anti-Iran group sitting in the White House that is planning a conspiracy against us,” Rouhani said. “But together we will tackle this phase.
“It should not be said we are facing a crisis. There is no crisis. If we say there is, it will become a problem for society and a threat,” he said.
Parliament has already impeached Rouhani’s labour and economy ministers this month and the president replaced the head of the central bank, amid concerns about the sharp depreciation of the national currency, which has lost more than half of its value since April.
While Iran’s parliament has the power to impeach a president, Rouhani is protected by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who recently said that removing the president would “play into the hands of the enemy.”
The MPs quizzed Rouhani on his government’s failure to tackle the rise of unemployment, slow economic growth and the fall of the rial, as well as cross-border smuggling operations.
The president said he had asked the country’s Revolutionary Guard to help stamp out illicit trade.
The only answer which legislators accepted related to international banking sanctions, which they agreed were beyond the government’s control.
Hardliners, who always opposed the nuclear deal and any thaw in relations with the West, have called on Rouhani to step down.
The case will now be referred to the country’s judiciary for consideration.