On February 18th, The National Reform Front brought a no-confidence vote against the government before parliament. A total of twenty-two MP’s signed a memorandum in which they cited the governments’ “inability to address the current challenges and the tax burdens it has put on citizens”. An additional twenty-seven representatives withheld confidence during the vote, while sixty-seven deputies out the one hundred and thirty seat parliament supported the government.
Prime Minister Hani Mulki was thankful for the show of confidence. “The government will move ahead with its decisions and will not procrastinate because it is not seeking popularity.” Mulki is currently pushing heavy economic reforms to meet the criteria set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The reforms are unpopular because food prices are rising and new taxes are imposed.
Reform agenda The Jordanian economy has suffered in recent years from conflict in the region, a large group of refugees in the country and the enormous public debt (95% of the GDP). In 2016 the IMF and Amman agreed upon a reform package to get the Jordanian economy back on track. The package proposed a set of tax hikes to relieve the public debt. Mulki has recently pushed these reforms by introducing taxes on agricultural goods. Other measures include the abolishment of subsidies on food. As a result, food prices have risen in the past month. Meanwhile Jordanians pay more taxes. The government has denounced the criticism against the reforms as populism.
The reforms are opposed especially by the rural population. Small scale demonstrations have gone on for weeks. Protestors called for the resignation of the prime minister. The National Reform Front, also known as the Reform Bloc, has taken notice of the public outcry. “Citizens have already tried to tighten their belts in the past two years […] people have lost faith in the political system’’ according to the Reform Bloc. The Islamic Action Front, the party at the core of the bloc, is advocating social reform instead of the liberalization programme of Mulki. Setting two opposing reform movements in Jordan against each other.
The reform alliance formed during the Arab Spring, the Islamic Action Front, the Jordanian political branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, organized a number of smaller Jordanian parties into an political front to advocate social and political reform. Since the 2013 electoral reform it has had some success in advocating its agenda to the national stage. It is viewed as the only opposition force in a parliamentary system that is still heavily depended on the monarchy and tribal institutions.