The Majlis grilled Rouhani on subject such as why his cabinet has failed to bring the smuggling and plummeting currency values under control, as well as the continuing banking sanctions, his cabinet failing to take any measures to decrease unemployment or control the economic recession.
“After the Majlis members remained unconvinced of the president’s answers to four questions, the raised issues will be referred to the judiciary and afterwards the judiciary’s evaluation will once again be sent to the Majlis for the members to make their decision,” state-run E’temad Online website reported.
Reuters cited Rouhani’s remarks in the Majlis regarding the Iranian people. He said that they are losing their “trust in the Islamic republic and are questioning the state’s powers.”
Mohammad Dehghan, a Majlis member asked, “Why isn’t the list of individuals receiving currency published, and what are you afraid of? Why do you spend hundreds of millions of dollars in unnecessary foreign visits while the people are concerned about high prices and inflation?” He continued, “The currency reaped by government companies every three months is around $10 billion. What is it spent on?… Why did the government sell 61 tons of gold coins at half price to a number of people?”
Mohammad Hossein Farhangi, another Majlis member, also had concerns. “During your tenure we are witnessing increasing recession and 1,500 factories have closed down during this period. Liquidity increasing by 2.3% during the last year has resulted in increasing tension in our markets,” he said.
Touching on the topic of unemployment, Majlis member Seyyed Hossein Naghavi Hosseini commented, “Unemployment is the mother of all corruption in our country. Some families have five educated children who are all unemployed, even with PhDs… what happened to your plan to create jobs?… We shouldn’t be so weak in the face of sanctions. We can bypass sanctions. More than 5,000 production centers are closed down across the country.”
Rouhani’s responses highlighted the regime’s deep crises. “On December 28, we suddenly saw a bunch of people in the streets chanting slogans, and the slogans slowly started to become norm breaking,” Rouhani said, regarding the role of the recent uprisings, and their effect on the regime. “Suddenly the circumstances in the country changed. The date of this change was December 26, 2017. Anyone who gives a different date for the start point is, in my opinion, misleading the people.
It began on December 26, 2017 when people saw suddenly that some people were chanting on the streets, and the slogans little by little went out of bounds. In previous years, such incidents were practically non-existent. The events of December/January encouraged Mr. Trump to declare in mid-January that he would not remain in the JCPOA. His threat of withdrawal and the domestic turbulence and international threats frightened the people.”
But, Majlis member Mojtaba Zolnour criticized Rouhani. “You haven’t even chaired a single session focusing on how to fight the currency smuggling… You said all sanctions will be lifted on the first day of the Iran nuclear deal, including all non-nuclear sanctions. What happened? Why do we have problems with all the major banks? Are you the president of Switzerland? Or the Islamic republic? Do you expect to fool the people with mere claims and boasting about statistics? Trump ruined the highly praised nuclear deal with a single strike,” he said.
Rouhani’s questioning came after months of factional feuding and a power struggle within the regime. The ministers of labor and economic affairs were fired by the Majlis over the past two weeks.
While Rouhani attempted to present a positive picture of his government’s five-year record, he was forced to acknowledge the public’s anger and dismay. He said that the problem is “all of a sudden, people’s perception of Iran’s future changed, and this is major problem. The issue of jobs and unemployment is a major problem. I accept this. Banking irregularities and the economic boom and the currency prices are all important issues, but they all pale in relation to the issue of public trust and hope…”
In an effort to defuse the factional infighting, Rouhani went so far as to praise the role of the IRGC in preventing smuggling, even though he had previously highlighted the key role of the IRGC in billions of dollars’ worth of major-scale smuggling. His attempt proved futile, and failed to subdue MPs who opposed him.
Rouhani’s appearance before the Parliament shows a worsening crisis and power struggle within this regime. No beneficial changes will result from this. The people will remain angry and frustrated and their protests will continue.