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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Jordan's King Abdullah officially appoints Omar Al Razzaz to form new government

Jordan's King Abdullah II officially appointed Omar Al Razzaz to form a new government on Tuesday, while calling for a review of a tax bill that sparked the biggest protests in the kingdom since 2011.

The announcements followed the resignation yesterday of former prime Minister Hani Mulki amid the continuing protests.

Anti-government demonstrations resumed on Monday evening and into early Tuesday, with protesters demanding the government scrap proposed tax increases, which critics say mostly target the poor and the middle class.

Riot police scuffled with some marchers, trying to keep them away from the prime ministry but the fifth street protest in as many days was largely peaceful.

Mr Mulki resigned on Monday, as Jordan's King Abdullah II — who has the ultimate say on policy decision, promised change. Meanwhile, Mr Mulki is to serve as caretaker.

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Jordanian media, including the government-linked Al Rai newspaper, widely reported on Monday that the outgoing education minister, Mr Al Razzaz, was tapped as Mr Mulki's successor. Mr Al Razzaz had previously held senior positions in the World Bank and is considered a reformer.

Protest organisers have said they seek real change, including a rescinding of the tax bill, and that personnel changes at the top are irrelevant without fundamental reforms. It is not clear whether Mr Mulki's replacement would have such a mandate.

In the march, which started late on Monday, some of the protesters chanted, "No to Mulki, No to Al Razzaz".

An umbrella organisation for more than a dozen unions and professional organisations said it would go ahead with a planned one-day strike on Wednesday, while several other unions said they would suspend their protests to give the country a chance to solve its problems after the resignation of Mr Mulki.

Jordan's government is under pressure from the International Monetary Fund to carry out economic reforms and austerity measures to rein in growing public debt.

The kingdom has experienced an economic downturn in part because of prolonged conflict in neighbouring Syria and Iraq, and a large influx of refugees several years ago. The official unemployment rate has risen above 18 per cent, and it is believed to be double that among young Jordanians.