Jordan’s King Abdullah dissolves parliament and appoints caretaker prime minister
Amman // Jordan’s King Abdullah dissolved parliament and appointed a caretaker prime minister on Sunday after accepting the government’s resignation.
The move was widely anticipated – although the current parliament’s term was not due to end until January next year – as anger grows over persistent economic, social and political problems.
In a statement announcing an interim administration, King Abdullah criticised the “weak performance” of some government agencies, saying it had negative consequences on citizens and investors.
He said immediate and effective measures should be taken to improve the performance of these agencies.
The king appointed Hani Mulqi, a former diplomat and adviser to the king, to head the caretaker government. Under Jordan’s constitution, elections for the new parliament must be held within four months.
The outgoing government of prime minister Abdullah Ensour and the parliament, dominated by tribal legislators, were coming under growing criticism for failing to find effective solutions to the problems facing the country.
Unemployment rose last year to 13 per cent, according to official figures, an eight-year high, while gross public debt reached 92.9 per cent of GDP. Against that backdrop, and as Jordan prepares for upcoming talks with the IMF over the next instalment of a loan, austerity measures are looming.
Jordan is also being battered by the war in neighbouring Syria, which has damaged trade flows and prompted a refugee crisis that has inflamed social tensions in the kingdom.
“Public opinion is not at ease with the government or parliament. The government is getting the blame for deteriorating economic conditions and increasing debt, while parliament had proven ineffective both as a watchdog and as legislature,” said Nabeel Ghishan, an independent political analyst who intends to stand in the next election.
The reputation of the outgoing parliament was also damaged by occasional chaotic scenes in the chamber, including an embarrassing session in which a law was passed, only to be immediately repealed.
Jordan’s principal political opposition bloc, the Muslim Brotherhood, is likely to face a difficult election period, having come under increased legal pressure to curb its activities. As a result it remains unclear if the Islamic Action Front, the Brotherhood’s political wing, will take part in the ballot at all.
The election will take place under a new law that came into effect in March. The law, which was cautiously welcomed by opposition groups, only allows candidates to run on lists, rather than individually, and encourages candidates to propose joint political platforms on which to run as a bloc.
Mohammad Hussainy, the head of Identity Centre, a civil society organisation that works on electoral issues, said the new law would help parliamentary elections to evolve from an individual-based process into more of a collective and politicised process.
Despite this change, however, the bulk of parliamentary seats in the next election are likely to be won by similar candidates as in past elections: those from pro-monarchy parties, those tied to the country’s traditional tribal network and independent Islamists.
Updated: May 29, 2016 04:00 AM