Economic difficulties puts Iranian President under pressure to perform

Iranian President Rouhani © Alireza Bahari

Facing increasing economic difficulties, Iran’s lawmakers have given President Hassan Rouhani one month to appear before the parliament in order to answer queries on his government’s handling, reported Iran’s state media.

The development marks the first time that Rouhani has been summoned to parliament. The Iranian President is under increasing pressure from lawmakers to reshuffle his cabinet and perform following a deterioration of ties with the United States, which has backed out of the landmark 2015 nuclear accord.

Iranian lawmakers want to question Rouhani on a range of issues, including economic difficulties, the heavy depreciation of the Rial which has lost more than 50% of its value since April 2018, and rising unemployment.

Rouhani, a pragmatist who was instrumental in Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with the United States, is facing strong headwinds because US President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of that deal in May and has threatened to reimpose sanctions in order to choke its oil-exports driven economy.

With the country stinging from the pains of economic difficulties, Iranian lawmakers want to question Rouhani as to why after more than two years since the landmark 2015 accord, the country’s banks still have only limited access to global financial services. The 2015 agreement curbed Iran’s nuclear program in return for lifting most international sanctions.

Rouhani’s summons come at a time when there is growing discontent in the country. Since the beginning of 2018, Iranians have been protesting against rising prices, growing power cuts, water shortages and alleged corruption.

Earlier this week on Tuesday, hundreds of Iranians had rallied across the country, including Ahvaz, Isfahan, Karaj, and Shiraz in protest of growing economic difficulties, high inflation caused partly by the weak Rial.

Ali Larijani, Iran’s Parliamentary speaker was quoted by the state television as saying, Rouhani will have a month to attend a parliamentary session and address these issues.