Though far from a million-man strong, a rally to show support for Jordan's King Abdullah II was filled with enthusiasm.
Planned million-man rally for Jordan's king falls short
AMMAN //A rally that was hoped to inspire a million Jordanians to demonstrate in favour of their monarch, King Abdullah II, fell far short of the expected turnout, with only several thousand supporters showing up for the event.
The participants, many of whom were bused in to Amman from the city's impoverished outskirts, still displayed enthusiasm; flaunting photos of the king in his military garb, in casual wear or standing next to his heir-apparent, Crown Prince Hussein.
Some men danced the dabke, a traditional dance, under a massive flag of Jordan, singing the king's praises. While lower than expected, the turnout dwarfed previous pro-government rallies and seemed as much a forum to criticise the recent wave of anti-government protests as a display of support for King Abdullah.
"They seek to destroy the country and tamper with its national unity and undermine the country's security," said Mahmoud Ajrami, 57, echoing a common theme about foreign-engineered conspiracies behind the region's recent unrest.
"There are some people who try to imitate blindly the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, while here we are blessed with stability."
The country's main opposition, the Muslim Brotherhood, dismissed accusations of foreign conspiracies and called the loyalty rally an example of falling confidence in the government
Zaki Bany-Ershead, the head of the brotherhood's political arm, the Islamic Action Front, called the rally a tactic by the authorities to divert public attention away from the more pressing issues of endemic official corruption and the need for government reform.
"The rally is like an imitation of (Libyan leader) Muammar Qaddafi when he urged people to demonstrate," he said, indicating that the government had a direct role in organising the rally. "This is not the government's job to call for rallies."
He said this represented a growing "crisis of confidence in the government".
However, some felt it was their duty to profess their loyalty to King Abdullah.
"We are always loyal to the king, and we belong to this country in which I was born in and grew up in," said Wafa Ali, a Jordanian of Palestinian origin. Mrs Ali, whose four-year old daughter, Rose, had "Abdullah" written on her forehead, praised the king and his government.
She said that she found out about the rally after her son received a pamphlet about it at a local mosque.