Jordan’s king fires the prime minister


By Jamal Halaby | Associated Press

AMMAN — Jordan’s King Abdullah II fired his government Tuesday in the wake of street protests and asked an ex-prime minister to form a new Cabinet, ordering him to launch immediate political reforms.

King Abdullah II of Jordan

The dismissal follows several large protests across Jordan— inspired by similar demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt — calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Samir Rifai, who is blamed for a rise in fuel and food prices and slowed political reforms.

A Royal Palace statement said Abdullah accepted Rifai’s resignation tendered earlier Tuesday.

The king named Marouf al-Bakhit as his prime minister-designate, instructing him to “undertake quick and tangible steps for real political reforms, which reflect our vision for comprehensive modernization and development in Jordan,” the palace statement said.

Al-Bakhit previously served as Jordan’s premier from 2005-2007.

The king also stressed that economic 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.”

He asked al-Bakhit for a “comprehensive assessment … to correct the mistakes of the past.” He did not elaborate. The statement said Abdullah also demanded an “immediate revision” of laws governing politics and public freedoms.

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 in effect since the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

But little has been done since. Although laws were enacted to ensure greater press freedom, journalists are still 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 government posts.

It was not immediately clear when al-Bakhit will name his Cabinet.

Al-Bakhit is a moderate politician, who served as Jordan’s ambassador to Israel earlier this decade.

He holds similar views to Abdullah in keeping 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.


3 comments on “Jordan’s king fires the prime minister

  1. February 2, 2011
    Hackers Shut Down Government Sites

    By RAVI SOMAIYA

    The online group Anonymous said Wednesday that it had paralyzed the Egyptian government’s Web sites in support of the antigovernment protests. Anonymous, a loosely defined group of hackers from all over the world, gathered about 500 supporters in online forums and used software tools to bring down the sites of the Ministry of Information and President Hosni Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, said Gregg Housh, a member of the group. The sites were unavailable Wednesday afternoon. The attacks, Mr. Housh said, are part of a wider campaign that Anonymous has mounted in support of the antigovernment protests that have roiled the Arab world. Last month, the group shut down the Web sites of the Tunisian government and stock exchange in support of the uprising that forced the country’s dictator, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, to flee. Mr. Housh said that the group had used its technical knowledge to help protesters in Egypt defy a government shutdown of the Internet that began last week. “We want freedom,” he said of the group’s motivation. “It’s as simple as that. We’re sick of oppressive governments encroaching on people.” Anonymous also mounted strikes late last year, characterized by some of its supporters as a “cyberwar,” against companies like MasterCard, Visa and PayPal that had refused to process donations to the antisecrecy group WikiLeaks. The F.B.I. said last week that it had executed 40 search warrants “throughout the United States” in connection with that campaign. The strikes by Anonymous, known as “distributed denial of service” attacks, could lead to criminal charges that carry 10-year prison sentences, the F.B.I. said. Arrests have been made and equipment seized in Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany and France, according to British and American officials. They declined to provide further details. Barrett Brown, who is helping to organize a legal defense for those who might be prosecuted, said further raids were expected. Mr. Housh said “these arrests aren’t going to have any effect.” Just hours after the raids, he said, about 600 people, including many who had been arrested and then released, were back online and coordinating efforts in Egypt. The New York Times

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