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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Jordan government stronger after vote of no confidence failed

Analysts say Sunday's parliamentary ballot has also strengthened the government's mandate to push forward with austerity measures

Jordanians protest against tax rises in front of the parliament building in Amman on February 1, 2018. Muhammad Hamed / Reuters
Jordanians protest against tax rises in front of the parliament building in Amman on February 1, 2018. Muhammad Hamed / Reuters

The Jordanian government's mandate to push forward with unpopular austerity measures has only been strengthened after it survived a parliamentary vote of no confidence, analysts say.

By comparison, however, MPs have been left looking weak and ineffective following Sunday's ballot — something that is sure to only further lower its public approval ratings.

The result of the no-confidence vote, which was called by an Islamist-led bloc, "means that parliament has renewed its confidence in the government to move ahead with its economic policies”, said Zaid Nawaiseh, an independent political analyst based in Amman.

"The government has tools to thwart any effort by parliament that would interfere in its decisions. And people’s anger towards parliament is even greater than their anger towards the government.”

Parliament is "unpopular and its members are elected individually and not based on political party representation. They are interested in serving their personal interests", he added, referring to the legislature's domination by businessmen and tribesmen — the product of an election law that discourages the creation of political parties.

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The no confidence vote followed small and scattered protests in several cities across the country as Jordanians struggle with the lifting of bread subsidies and an increase in taxes on hundreds of everyday services and goods, including internet connection, electricity, soft drinks and stationary.

But despite public resentment of the government in the face of such austerity measures, 67 members of the 130-member lower house parliament voted in favour of granting confidence. Forty-nine withheld, four abstained and nine were absent.

Fares Braizat, chairman of the Amman-based NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions, said the vote would do nothing to improve public support for either the government or parliament.

“The vote comes as the government and parliament’s popularity is at rock bottom based on public opinion polls,” he said. “It does not mean it is a positive move since parliament remains weak and ineffective. Nothing is going to change.”

Parliamentary no confidence votes are not uncommon in Jordan, where they are enshrined in the constitution.

After surviving Sunday's ballot, Prime Minister Hani Al Mulki said his government would continue to implement cost-cutting measures.

“It is our duty to protect the country and citizens,” he told parliament. "We are not looking for popularity … we will move ahead in the right direction.”