Iranian MPs demand overhaul of Rouhani’s economic team

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Nearly two-thirds of Iran’s MPs have written to President Hassan Rouhani demanding he change his economic team to deal with the country’s worsening financial woes, state media said on Wednesday.

“The poor performance of senior officials in charge of the economy over the past few years has led to the population’s increased distrust,” wrote 187 of the Iranian parliament’s 290 lawmakers, in a letter published by IRNA news agency.

The warning followed demonstrations and a rare strike at the Grand Bazaar in Tehran, as Iranians protested their country’s dire economic situation.

In their letter, the members of parliament urged Rouhani to act “as a matter of urgency”, calling on the president to make changes “in the management of the economic team”.

The overhaul must bring “dynamism” and an “understanding” of the economic situation, they wrote, before parliament “takes a decision on the matter”.

The government’s economic team is made up of vice-presidents and ministers, as well as Rouhani’s economic advisers and the central bank president.

Lawmakers have the power to dismiss ministers or to declare, through a two-thirds majority vote, the “incapacity” of the president, paving the way for his possible dismissal by Iran’s supreme leader.

Increasing pressure

Rouhani has been under increasing pressure over the country’s finances, with the value of Iran’s currency plunging almost 50 percent in the past six months.

The situation has worsened since President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers last month, announcing further sanctions against Tehran.

Iranians have also been hit by rising prices, while record levels of unemployment have left a third of under 30-year-olds out of work.

Rouhani was re-elected in May 2017 on the promise of boosting Iran’s economy and implementing social reforms.

He has been fiercely attacked in recent weeks by ultra-conservatives, who have denounced his policy of openness with the West and have accused him of damaging the economy.

On Tuesday, Rouhani called for unity a day after Grand Bazaar vendors went on strike over the collapse of the rial on foreign exchange markets.

Brief scuffles had also broken out on Monday between protesters and police in central Tehran.

Grand Bazaar traders returned to work on Wednesday under a heavy riot police presence, the Fars news agency and witnesses interviewed by AFP said.