Jordan PM quits 6 months into reform mandate

King Abdullah II replaces Khasawneh with former PM Fayez Tarawneh. Islamic Action Front: Security services, siege mentality won


Jordan‘s Prime Minister Awn Khasawneh resigned on Thursday, barely six months after forming a reform-mandated government to bring in political and economic change in the country.

King Abdullah II replaced Khasawneh, who was in Turkey, with Fayez Tarawneh, 63, who was prime minister and royal court chief in the late 1990s.

King Abdullah Photo: Reuters

King Abdullah of Jordan - Photo: REUTERS

The king “asked Fayez Tarawneh to form a new government after the resignation of Khasawneh today,” a senior official told AFP.

Khasawneh, 62, an International Court of Justice judge, formed his cabinet in October, becoming the third premier in 2011, saying he had “received guarantees from the king to have full sovereignty as prime minister.”

It was unclear why Khasawneh quit but news reports quoted sources as saying he was unhappy that the king decided to extend parliament’s ordinary session until June 25.

“Regardless of how he quit, this showed the sovereignty which the prime minister talked about does not exist in Jordan,” said Zaki Bani Rshied, head of the political bureau of the powerful Islamic Action Front.

“It revealed the level of power struggle within the state. Unfortunately, the security services and a siege mentality have won.”

Bani Rshied, whose party is the political arm of the country’s Muslim Brotherhood, warned that “the coming phase will be full of political uncertainty.”

“All that talk about reform that we have been hearing was nothing. It has been proven that there is no will to introduce reforms. The current atmosphere shows that the country is heading towards more failure,” he told AFP.

Following his appointment, Khasawneh vowed to fight corruption, and analysts warned at the time that his government could be a last-ditch shot at reform.

He won a comfortable vote of confidence for his government from parliament in December after pledging to push ahead with reforms.

But Khasawneh came under sharp criticism for proposing an electoral law that has been seen as a blow to pro-reform movements, including the powerful opposition Islamists.

The long-awaited draft, which was approved by the cabinet earlier this month, scraps a contested one-person-one-vote system and increases a quota for women MPs.

The Islamists and other groups criticized the proposal, mainly for limiting the number of seats allocated to political parties.

Jordan has seen relatively small but persistent Arab Spring-inspired demonstrations almost every week since January 2011, demanding sweeping reforms and a tougher fight against corruption.

But no significant anti-corruption action has been taken so far, while the overall debt reached $21 billion by the end of February.

And officially, unemployment is about 14% in the country of nearly 6.5 million people, 70% of them under the age of 30. Other estimates, mostly from non-government organizations, put unemployment as high as 30%.


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