New Prime Minister appointed in Jordan following dissolution of Parliament [UPDATED]

Thu 11 Oct 2012

New Prime Minister appointed in Jordan following dissolution of Parliament [UPDATED]

On October 10 it was officially announced that Jordan’s King Abdullah II designated veteran politician Abdullah Nsur to form a new government after Prime Minister Fayez Tarawneh and his government resigned ahead of legislative polls.

Consitutional amendments and elections

Tarawneh’s resignation is said to come in line with the recently introduced constitutional amendments stipulating the government must resign following dissolution of parliament, which occurred last week. Nsur is an outspoken MP and senator who held portfolios of foreign affairs, planning, education and information in several governments in the 1980s and 1990s and repeatedly called for sweeping reforms and tougher fight against corruption. He is tasked with forming a new government, which will be Jordan’s fifth in two years. There is no clear deadline for establishing a new government, as the newly established Independent Election Commission is yet to set the election date as the constitutionally mandated body to oversee the polls. According to Khaled Kalaldeh, former Jordanian MP, it is in the Prime Minister’s best interest to set up the new administration within 24 hours due to possible public protests by the Muslim Brotherhood.

With the presentation of Nsur’s appointment, King Abdullah stated that the new government must work to ensure that all segments of the Jordanian society take part in the election. "The primary responsibility of this government in this transitional phase is to pave the way for a qualitative leap in Jordan's political history and democratisation," the King had informed Nsur in his letter of designation. In the period prior to the elections, the new government is expected to continue dialogue with all parts of Jordan’s society, political parties and political forces and encourage them to effectively take part in the elections as voters or candidates.

Unconvinced opposition and protests

Media reports state that the dissolution of parliament has failed to convince the Islamist opposition led by the Muslim Brotherhood to reverse its boycott of the electoral process, which they argue favours government loyalist rural areas as the expense of urban areas with Islamist stronghold. The opposition is said to demand a parliamentary system in which the prime minister is not appointed by the King but elected by the people.

Last week Friday October 5 a large public protest was organized by the Muslim Brotherhood and took thousands of people to the streets in demand of reforms. The actions by King Abdullah of dissolving the parliament were seen by experts as foreshadowing the gravity of the planned protest, likely to echo the demonstrations of the Arab Spring ousting their long-term leaders. Generally, however, Jordan has managed to avoid major unrest and political upheaval following the events of the Arab Spring in 2011. Protests in the country have been relatively small and have not managed to gain the same level of political momentum as the ones in Libya or Egypt.
The Muslim Brotherhood has frequently called for political reforms in Jordan. The deputy secretary general of the political wing of the Brotherhood, the Islamic Action Front, Nimer Assaf, told the media that the dissolution of the Parliament by the King is an expected move and does not represent the “right” step forward. The Islamic Action Front demand focus on the appointment of prime minister, but also include measures for tackling corruption, and introducing wide-ranging reforms such as reshaping of the democratic election law and allowing of Parliament to dissolve itself.

The dissolution decree

King Abdullah issued Royal Decrees for the dissolution of the Parliament and calling for early elections following provisions of Jordan’s Elections Law on October 4.

With the Decree King Abdullah dissolved the 16th Parliament of Jordan, elected almost two years ago. In accordance with the amended Constitution, the current government would be obliged to resign within a week, during which time the Prime Minister would not be able to form a new government. Additionally, since Prime Minister Fayez Tarawneh is the one that submitted an official recommendation to King Abdullah to dissolve the House of Representatives, he cannot be appointed head of the succeeding government. Following the dissolution, the Independent Elections Commission needs to select a date for the next elections, speculated by experts to be no earlier than mid-January.

Experts argue that the dissolution of the Parliament can be seen as the latest pre-emptive move of the King to possible Arab Spring-inspired demonstrations, or what experts pin down as “him showing he is responsive to public dissatisfaction”. In February 2011, following the stepping down of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak after weeks of intense protest, King Abdullah once again dismissed his government and appointed a new Prime Minister. Moreover, in a period of two years Abdullah has fired four ministers. With these acts, the King had promised his people to take quick and concrete practical steps in a process of genuine political reform for strengthening of democracy and comprehensive development. On October 4, government spokesman described the King’s latest decision as the next step in his plan for promised reforms.

Sources: CNN, BBC, Jordan Times, Ammon News, News24
Photo: King Abdullah, by European Parliament on flickr