Iran’s powerful conservatives in control of the country’s new parliament have begun collecting signatures for a motion that could effectively lead to the impeachment of two powerful ministers in President Hassan Rouhani’s Cabinet.
In their draft bid, those lawmakers are set to summon Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zangeneh to grill him on a list of 20 cases of “incompetency,” which they believe have dealt “serious damage” to Iran’s economy. They have also prepared a lawsuit against the veteran minister, which they plan to file with the Iranian judiciary as early as next week.
“We do believe that his continued presence in the Oil Ministry will no longer serve national interests,” said Ebrahim Rezaee, who is a member of the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission. Rezaee also attacked the oil minister over his concentration on selling crude rather than boosting oil byproducts. “During Zangeneh’s tenure, we have seen competitors occupy Iran’s position at the international oil market,” the conservative lawmaker added. Zangeneh is also accused by hard-liners of stalling the development of Iran’s oil industry after a mass exodus by international energy giants following the US departure from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018.
In a counterargument, however, the Rouhani government says Zangeneh has been facing a series of tremendous challenges trying to mitigate the impacts of US pressure on Iran’s oil industry and get Iran’s crude flow through unconventional markets despite crippling sanctions. In the “economic war” imposed by Washington, Zangeneh has earned the title of “the general” from his supporters.
The other minister facing the rage of conservative lawmakers is Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli. Appointment of incompetent local governors and mismanagement of the aftermaths of floods and earthquakes are among the multiple accusations the interior minister has to answer to. Yet the most pressing issue concerns his handling of the government’s fuel price scheme. The controversial plan was implemented in November, sparking nationwide rallies led by lower- and middle-class Iranians, who argued that the price hikes would further shrink their purchasing power and drain their pockets.