Iran finance minister target of impeachment proceedings as sanctions bite
Iranian members of parliament began impeachment proceedings against the finance minister on Sunday, increasing pressure on the president, who is already facing attacks from hardliners over his handling of the economy amid new US sanctions.
A group of 33 MPs signed a motion accusing the minister, Masoud Karbasian, of being incapable of managing the economy or forming and implementing policies.
That was enough votes to summon Karbasian to parliament in the next 10 days to answer questions about his record.
If lawmakers are unhappy with his answers, they can vote to impeach and sack him - a move they took two weeks ago against Iran’s then minister of cooperatives, labour and social welfare, Ali Rabiei, after questioning his achievements.
President Hassan Rouhani is facing a growing domestic backlash since US President Donald Trump in May pulled out of an international accord that had curbed Iran's nuclear ambitions in return for sanctions relief.
The rial currency has halved in value since April and protests have also broken out since the beginning of the year over high prices and alleged corruption.
Corruption is deeply entrenched in Iran, where an opaque business environment provides opportunities for embezzlement and market manipulation. Earlier this month, the head of the central bank was sacked and his deputy in charge of foreign exchange arrested.
With protests and strikes taking on a political edge in many places, pressure has mounted from all sides to take more concerted action against corruption.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in recent days called for "swift and just" legal action against financial crimes from new courts, after the head of the judiciary said the country is facing an "economic war," Reuters reported.
Washington imposed sanctions on the acquisition of US dollars by Iran, and Tehran's trade in gold and precious metals earlier this month. The US has also said it will reimpose sanctions on Iran's oil exports and banking sector on 4 November.
On Sunday, Iran asked OPEC to protect it against the US sanctions on its oil sales.
Also on Sunday, Rouhani defended Karbasian at a cabinet meeting, calling the minister's performance acceptable, although he did not comment on the motion by the MPs.
Parliament on 1 August summoned Rouhani to come and answer questions within the next month, though without the threat of an impeachment vote - the first time lawmakers have taken this measure against him.