x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Jordanians gather in peaceful protest

Jordanians gather under eyes of heavy security to push for faster pace of constitutional reform.

AMMAN// Nearly 6,000 Jordanians protested under heavy security presence in central Amman in a planned demonstration yesterday, demanding constitutional reforms in the largest demonstration in weeks.

Hamza Mansour, the leader of the Islamic Action Front, Jordan's largest opposition group, warned that people are becoming impatient for major reform. He urged quicker steps to give Jordanians a bigger say in politics and to have them elect their prime minister - now selected by King Abdullah II.

He said that Jordanians were "proud" of those who rebelled against autocratics governments in Tunisia, Egypt and Algeria, the Associated Press reported.

Police deployed 3,000 personnel near Al Husseini mosque, where the demonstration kicked off after noon prayers, to pre-empt possible violence after clashes erupted last week when eight were injured after so-called "thugs" attacked pro-reform supporters. "We have deployed enough forces so, if there is more than one march, we can protect people. They have been trained to do this," said one senior police official, who asked that he not be identified by name. By the end of the march, there was no reported violence, but police made five arrests.

"Two were caught pick-pocketing and three were drunk trying to get into the crowds," the police officer said.

Yesterday marked the eighth consecutive Friday protests were held in Amman and other cities even as the government vowed to move ahead with reforms. On Thursday, the government formed an eight-member committee responsible for organising national discussions with the aim of amending laws that govern political life in Jordan - including the election law.

Last week, the Cabinet approved amendments to a draft public assembly law that would allow people to demonstrate without a prior adminsistrative permission. The amendents were referred it to parliament. The measures, however, did little to appease public resentment.

"We are here to protest peacefully against soaring prices and to ask for political reforms," Ibrahim Thawabi, 45, who took part in the demonstration. "We want to see action taking place and not only words. I am not optimistic."

People representing the Islamic-led opposition, its offshoot the Islamic Action Front, leftist groups, a youth movement known as Jayeen, trade union representatives, as well as ordinary citizens denounced corruption during the protest and called for the dissolution of parliament and for regime reform, as they waved Jordanian flags.

"We need a constitutional monarchy where the king reigns but not rules," Maysara Malas, a trade union activist, said. "The king should not shoulder all the responsibilities by himself. All the reform measures taken so far do not mean anything."