President summoned to assembly for questioning over $2.6bn fraud case involving top government officials.
|Ahmadinejad argued that Hosseni’s dismissal would be a setback for Iran’s fight against sanctions [GALLO/GETTY]|
Iran’s economy minister has survived an impeachment vote in parliament after appeals by the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to keep the government intact despite anger over a major banking scandal.
Parliament members voted 141-93 on Tuesday to keep Shamsoddin Hosseini, who has been accused of failing to take action after learning of the alleged $2.6bn bank fraud.
Ahmadinejad, who had been called to the parliament for questioning, said that dismissing Hosseini would be a setback for Iran’s efforts to fight international sanctions over its nuclear programme.
Ali Larijani, speaker of the Iranian parliament, joined Ahmadinejad in making an unsual plea for keeping Hosseini.
“The representatives know that I have not spoken on the occasions of ministerial impeachments … but today I felt the need to defend the economy minister,” Larijani was quoted by the official Fars News Agency as saying.
Larijani argued that Hosseini was efficient and despite wrongdoings under his leadership, parliamentary committees had not concluded that the he was involved in the fraud.
Sadegh Zibakalam, a professor of political science at Tehran University, told Al Jazeera the margin of votes in favour of Hosseini showed a clear victory for Ahmadinejad.
“I think it was definitely a decisive victory for the president,” he said.
Alleged credit scam
Ahmadinejad’s government still faces serious pressure over the banking scandal, which involved an alleged credit scam by a prominent businessman.
Mahafarid Amir Khosravi, also known as Amir Mansour Aria, has been accused of masterminding the use of forged documents to obtain credit from at least two Iranian state banks to purchase state-owned companies.
“It is possible that the impeachment of the minister could create tensions between the two branches [of the government]. And these tensions will cause problems in the way of investigating the case,” Larijani said.
“The case of economic fraud that has happened is so large that it requires all three branches to feel the responsibility. It is needed to dry the roots of corruption with unity and prevent any political tensions.”
For months, Ahmadinejad has been locked in a bitter power struggle with Iran’s ruling religious leaders, in the run-up to parliamentary elections in March and presidential elections in 2013.
Hosseini is the third minister in Ahmadinejad’s current cabinet to be impeached by the parliament.