Tehran: Iranian Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance Shamseddin Hosseini survived an impeachment vote during an open session of the Majlis. Of the 244 votes cast, 93 voted in favour of the motion, 141 voted against, and 10 abstained.
The parliamentarians who sought Hosseini's removal cited his failure to fulfill his supervisory responsibilities, which led to the recent USD 2.6 billion financial fraud, as the reason for their motion to oust the minister.
Some proponents of impeachment said Hosseini should have resigned after the financial fraud was revealed. However, Hosseini delivered a speech defending his performance.
"I did not resign from my post because the USD 2.6 billion financial fraud case occurred during my tenure, and I had to make up for it," Hosseini stated.
He added, "I spared no effort and tried to implement fundamental reforms in consultation with experts and in cooperation with lawmakers, some of which were the enforcement of the value-added tax and the implementation of the subsidy reform plan."
Hosseini also said that he was not aware that such a financial corruption was being committed.
In addition, he stated that he did not know that the former Managing Director of Bank Melli, Mahmoud Reza Khavari, who fled to Canada after the fraud case was uncovered, had a dual Canadian and Iranian citizenship.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also defended Hosseini's record.
"Any person who has committed any abuse (of power), no matter what post he holds, should be dealt with," Ahmadinejad told the Parliament.
He also stated that the fraud case should not be allowed to undermine the relations between the three branches of government, adding, "All (legislative, judicial and executive) powers and officials are making efforts to root out financial corruption in the country."
"(But) the issue made everyone realise the structural flaws in this regard," Ahmadinejad added.
"Regulations should be revised and we should turn the issue into an opportunity for the country instead of blaming each other."
After Ahmadinejad's speech, Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani threw his weight behind the Economy Minister and called on the lawmakers to vote against impeachment, which came as a surprise to some lawmakers. However, MP Ahmad Tavakkoli, criticised Hosseini for failing to discharge his duties properly and said, "The people, who had pinned their hopes on us, who call ourselves principlists, did not expect that" such a massive fraud occur during the terms in office of a government and a Majlis which say they are strongly advocating "justice".
Tavakkoli said that a minister who does not tell lawmakers the truth should no longer serve as a minister.
Hosseini lied when he said that he did not know Khavari had a dual citizenship, Tavakkoli added.
He also expressed regret at the fact that Larijani defended Hosseini.