Iran's Legislature Grills Embattled Rouhani on Economic Policy

(Bloomberg) -- Iranian lawmakers rejected President Hassan Rouhani’s defense of his handling of the tottering economy but stopped short of taking action to weaken him further.

The embattled Rouhani had been summoned to appear before parliament to explain his government’s actions to tackle 12.5 percent unemployment, the tumbling rial, a slump in economic growth and smuggling. His standing has been hurt by President Donald Trump’s withdrawal in May from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and some allies say the rare summons to appear before the legislature was politically motivated to undermine him.

While conceding on Tuesday that more needs to be done to build on progress in his first term, Rouhani said public perception had soured over the prospect of renewed U.S. sanctions, which started going into effect this month.

“This doubt is what should be healed,” he said.

‘Dream Castle’

Conservative lawmaker Mojtaba Zolnouri blamed Rouhani for creating that doubt by building a “dream castle” over the nuclear accord and having no fallback when Trump “destroyed it with one kick.” Lawmakers dissatisfied with the president’s replies voted to reject four out of five of them.

State-run Press TV reported earlier that lawmakers planned to escalate their concerns about economic policies to the judiciary, but the spokesman for parliament’s presiding board told official Islamic Republic News Agency that no such decision has been made.

Rouhani staked his reputation on the nuclear deal, but the U.S. withdrawal has crippled the pact even though the other signatories remained, with businesses afraid of violating American sanctions.

Prices and unemployment began climbing even before the withdrawal was officially announced, and the Iranian currency has lost about 80 percent against the dollar since April. Dissatisfied with his attempts to stabilize the markets, lawmakers impeached two cabinet ministers this month.

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