King Abdullah of Jordan has dismissed his cabinet and appointed a new Prime Minister after three weeks of extensive street protests.
The new Prime Minister, Marouf Bakhit, has been given the reigns in order to carry out “true political reforms.” However, the Islamist opposition has rejected the appointment. The protests have taken inspiration from those in Tunisia and Egypt. Activists have demanded action on unemployment and rising prices, with the right to directly elect the prime minister. They placed responsibility on outgoing PM Samir Rifai for the country’s economic problems and called on him to stand down.
The palace confirmed that they had accepted Mr Rifai’s resignation on Tuesday. The move is being seen as an attempt to sooth the tensions amongst civilians and to head off further trouble from angry Jordanians in the wake of the violent clashes in Egypt and Tunisia. A palace statement read: “[The new prime minister’s mission is] to take practical, quick and tangible steps to launch true political reforms, enhance Jordan’s democratic drive and ensure safe and decent living for all Jordanians.”
Reform was a “necessity to provide a better life for our people, but we won’t be able to attain that without real political reforms, which must increase popular participation in the decision-making” the palace said.
Mr Bakhit, a retired army major-general, served as Jordan’s prime minister from 2005 to 2007, when he resigned. Prior to his taking office, he served as the kingdom’s ambassador to Israel and oversaw the peace treaty that Jordan signed with Israel in 1994.
However, critics of this appointment point out that Mr Bakhit did not achieve many of the reforms that he promised during his previous tenure and are pessimistic about his ability to implement the far-reaching reforms that many Jordanians desire.
Activists have demanded action on unemployment and rising prices, with the right to directly elect the prime minister
The country’s most powerful Islamist opposition, the Islamic Action Front (IAF) said it did not welcome Mr Bakhit’s appointment, claiming that with his appointment “reforms have not started yet. We are against Bakhit because our experience with him is not encouraging.”
The IAF have said that they wish the protests to continue, as they feel Mr Bakhit “is not the right person to run things at this current state and get Jordan out of a crisis.” The organisation has always claimed that the 2007 elections, after which Mr Bakhit resigned, were rigged. However, the IAF have repeatedly said that they do not wish to remove King Abdullah from power, who has the capacity to appoint governments, approve legislation and dissolve parliament.
Despite government initiatives, including a $125 million package to reduce prices and measures to increase salaries, attempts to ease the protests have so far proved futile.
Many of those on the streets said these measures are not enough and have demanded extensive political reforms, including the right to elect the prime minister.
A lot of faith has been put into Mr Bakhit’s ability. It remains to be seen however, whether he can prove himself capable.