Abdullah Dissolves Government
AP. AMMAN, Jordan. February 01, 2011 -- Jordan's King Abdullah II,
bowing to public pressure, fired his government on Tuesday and tasked a
new prime minister with quickly boosting economic opportunities and
giving Jordanians a greater say in politics.
The country's powerful Muslim opposition, which had demanded the
dismissal of Prime Minister Samir Rifai in several nationwide protests
inspired by those in Tunisia and Egypt, said the changes didn't go far
Rifai, 45, who has been widely blamed for a rise in fuel and food prices
and slow-moving political reforms, tendered his resignation early
Tuesday to the king, who accepted it immediately, a Royal Palace
Abdullah named Marouf al-Bakhit, 63, as Rifai's replacement. Al-Bakhit,
an ex-general who supports strong ties with the U.S. and Jordan's peace
treaty with Israel, previously served as prime minister from 2005-2007.
Abdullah ordered al-Bakhit to "undertake quick and tangible steps for
real political reforms, which reflect our vision for comprehensive
modernization and development in Jordan."
"Economic reform is a necessity to provide a better life for our
people," the king said in the statement. "But we won't be able to attain
that without real political reforms, which must increase popular
participation in the decision-making."
Abdullah also demanded an "immediate revision of laws governing politics
and public freedoms," including legislation governing political parties,
public meetings and elections.
Jordan's most powerful opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood,
dismissed the changes as cosmetic.
"We reject the new prime minister and we will continue our protests
until our demands are met," said Hamza Mansour, leader of the Islamic
Action Front, the Brotherhood's political arm.
Mansour repeated his call for constitutional amendments to curb the
king's power in naming prime ministers, arguing that the post should go
to the elected leader of the parliamentary majority.
Jordan's constitution gives the king the exclusive powers to appoint
prime ministers, dismiss parliament and rule by decree.
"Unlike Egypt, we don't want a regime change in Jordan and we recognize
the Hashemites' rule in Jordan," he said, referring to Jordan's ruling
family. "But we want to see real political reforms introduced."
When he ascended to the throne in 1999, King Abdullah vowed to press
ahead with political reforms initiated by his late father, King Hussein.
Those reforms paved the way for the first parliamentary election in 1989
after a 22-year gap, the revival of a multiparty system and the
suspension of martial law, which had been in effect since the 1948
But little has been done since then. Although laws were enacted to
ensure greater press freedom, journalists are still routinely prosecuted
for expressing their opinion or for comments considered slanderous of
the king and the royal family.
Some gains been made in women's rights, but many say they have not gone
far enough. Abdullah has pressed for stiffer penalties for perpetrators
of "honor killings," but courts often hand down lenient sentences.
Still, Jordan's human rights record is generally considered a notch
above that of Tunisia and Egypt. Although some critics of the king are
prosecuted, they frequently are pardoned and some are even rewarded with
It was not immediately clear when al-Bakhit will name his Cabinet.
A government official said al-Bakhit was consulting with lawmakers,
opposition groups, unionists and civil society institutions on the
makeup of his Cabinet.
The official, who is involved in the consultations, said al-Bakhit may
name some opposition leaders in the new government. He declined to say
whether al-Bakhit may approach the Muslim Brotherhood and insisted on
anonymity because he is not allowed to brief the media.
Al-Bakhit is a moderate politician, who served as Jordan's ambassador to
Israel earlier this decade.
Like Abdullah, he supports close ties with Israel under a peace treaty
signed in 1994 and strong relations with the United States, Jordan's
largest aid donor and longtime ally.
In 2005, Abdullah named al-Bakhit as his prime minister days after a
triple bombing on Amman hotels claimed by the al-Qaida in Iraq leader,
Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
During his 2005-2007 tenure, al-Bakhit -- an ex-army major general and
top intelligence adviser -- was credited with maintaining security and
stability following the attack, which killed 60 people and labeled as
the worst in Jordan's modern history.