x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Jordanian king inaugurates new parliament, will help to select PM

Monarch pledges to press ahead with democratisation but will help choose PM despite reforms.

AMMAN // Jordan's king inaugurated the country's newly elected parliament yesterday with a pledge to press ahead with democratisation.

But he said he would help to choose the next prime minister, despite the choice having been formally given to the legislature.

King Abdullah II had touted the election on January 23 as a "milestone" in the reforms he initiated two years ago to forestall large-scale Arab-Spring unrest of the kind that has toppled four of his peers since 2010.

He recently suggested the new legislature would have more powers to run the daily affairs of state and monitor the cabinet as the monarchy takes a step back, giving the people a wider say in politics.

It was also supposed to choose the prime minister, a job previously appointed by the monarch. But the election was boycotted by the main opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, resulting in a parliament dominated by inexperienced independents.

The king told the politicians Jordan was going through a "decisive transitional period" that will start with legislators electing a prime minister under palace supervision, at least until the fragmented and nascent political parties mature and are able to compete on ideological basis in future elections.

A government official said that the king wants to avoid "political chaos" as novice politicians make key decisions.

The Brotherhood had demanded a change to the election law, which they said favoured locally based independents over ideological blocs. The king has said he will revisit the election law.

The king dissolved the old legislature last year, halfway through a four-year term, amid complaints that its mainly conservative tribal lawmakers were too docile.

After the elections, the last royal-appointed prime minister, Abdullah Ensour, resigned but the king asked him to stay on until a new prime minister was elected. Deputies said consultation over the picking a premier will start this week.