Iran parliament moves to impeach Ahmadinejad

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Supreme Leader tells parliament to back off, but MPs are circulating a petition to bring down the president

BY Eliot Sefton LAST UPDATED AT 18:12 ON Tue 23 Nov 2010

Moves are afoot to impeach Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad despite a direct order from the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to refrain from doing so, it has emerged.

The Iranian parliament - the Majlis - has released a report, debated yesterday, in which 14 charges are levelled at Ahmadinejad.

According to the Wall Street Journal they include the withdrawal of $590 million from the Central Bank's foreign reserve fund without approval, illegally importing gas and oil to the value of $9bn and, perhaps most seriously in the eyes of MPs, a lack of transparency in the national budget and an attack on parliament's powers of oversight.

The report is damning: "The president and his cabinet must be held accountable in front of the parliament... the accumulation of legal violations by the government is harming the regime."

Although Khamenei warned parliament to back off, MPs are now circulating a petition which would entitle them to debate a motion unprecedented in the history of the Iranian republic: the impeachment of Ahmadinejad. His opponents reportedly have 40 of the 74 signatures they need.

The move by the Iranian parliament, itself dominated by conservatives, seems to be an escalation of a power struggle with the populist conservative Ahmadinejad and the even more conservative Guardian Council, which has the power of veto against any law passed by parliament.

On Saturday the Guardian Council recommended that Khamenei should rein in the parliament's powers - an intervention that seems only to have strengthened the MPs' resolve to bring down Ahmadinejad.

The likelihood of a successful impeachment is slim, however. Khamenei, as well as the Guardian Council, can veto any decision of parliament and the supreme leader has a history of intervening on behalf of his divisive president - not least when mass popular protests threatened to scupper Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election last year. · 

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