President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was questioned in Parliament today while a group of his supporters tangled with his detractors outside the building.
Iranian media report that after months of disputes over whether the president should be summoned to Parliament, 79 MPs signed the motion to question him on a series of irregularities was pushed through with signatures from 79 MPs.
This is the first time the Iranian Parliament has summoned a president for questioning, and the session was aired live on state radio.
Reports of the session indicate that Ahmadinejad responded to the questions in a dismissive attitude, resorting to ridicule and mocking the questions put to him.
MP Ali Motahari, one of the initiators of the motion to question the president, thanked him for appearing for questioning, adding that his presence reveals that the country is “led by the will of the people.”
He added that he hoped the outcome of the session would move them toward resolving the economic, cultural and political problems at hand.
However, Ahmadinejad dismissed questions about his administration’s economic performance, saying that all its decisions were the best possible under particular circumstances. He denied claims that his government releases incorrect economic statistics and maintained that the budget to develop the Tehran subway, according to the Central Bank, has already been exhausted.
He also rejected all claims that his government’s handling of the restructuring of government subsidies has been faulty.
He was defiant even in the face of protests against the dismissal of his foreign and intelligence ministers, saying: “I said from the beginning that I did not agree with the stance of certain individuals.” He said the appointment and dismissal of his ministers should remain at his discretion.
Ahmadinejad had unceremoniously dismissed his foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, while he was on a mission in Africa, replacing him with an ally, Ali Akbar Salehi.
An attempt to make a similar change at the helm of the Intelligence Ministry was overturned by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, which made Ahmadinejad sulk and miss work for 11 days.
However, his resistance against the will of the Supreme Leader was heavily criticized by the conservative establishment and made him a target of continuous attacks, which finally led to his questioning in Parliament.
Ahmadinejad ended the session with greater mockery of his questioners, saying: “I have to say the questions were not really hard and I think those who prepared them got their credentials by pressing a button. If you had consulted with us, you would have got a better set of questions.”
He added: “So if you give me anything less than 100 percent, it would be utterly unfair.”
Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani denounced his attitude, saying Parliament was not the place for jokes, and some MPs said that the president has “insulted” Parliament and had to be impeached.
Ahmadinejad has been embroiled in a power struggle with Parliament in recent years, and many hardliners who supported him in the presidential elections appear to have turned against him, weakening his power base in the Islamic Republic establishment.