x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Jordan's King Abdullah will give parliament a say in choosing government

King Abdullah will, for the first time, consult parliament while picking a government after tomorrow's election in Jordan, the prime minister, Abdullah Ensour, says.

AMMAN // King Abdullah will, for the first time, consult parliament while picking a government after tomorrow's election in Jordan, the prime minister, Abdullah Ensour, said yesterday.

He called it "dramatic progress" toward democracy.

Mr Ensour said the vote, boycotted by the main Muslim Brotherhood-linked opposition party, would reflect "major changes that the political system in Jordan has undergone towards greater openness and democratisation" since pro-democracy protests began sweeping the Arab world two years ago.

The king last year endorsed constitutional changes devolving some of his prerogatives to parliament, which critics said had become sidelined, and restoring to the government some executive powers that had shifted to the palace and security forces.

"This is dramatic progress and what the king has done voluntarily is what the opposition had demanded," said Mr Ensour. "Any government will now be formed by the joint will of his majesty and parliament."

Islamists and some tribal opposition figures have staged protests calling for the king to give up his power to name governments, and criticising last year's constitutional changes as falling short of their demands.

Unlike some Arab nations, Jordan has not seen mass protests calling for the overthrow of the ruling system. However, emboldened activists have complained openly about corruption.

Under pressure to accelerate political reform, the king appointed Mr Ensour, a veteran politician, in October to oversee an election after dissolving the tribally dominated parliament mid term.

But the outgoing 150-strong assembly resisted changes in the electoral law that would have reduced tribal influence, prompting the boycott by Islamists who said the old law favoured rural regions that depend on state patronage, and which form the backbone of support for the Hashemite monarchy.

The boycott has reduced the vote to a contest between tribal leaders, establishment figures and independent businessmen, with just a few of the 1,450 candidates running for recognised parties.