After Egypt's protests, Jordan's king faces more assertive public
Despite skepticism in Jordan about King Abdullah's appointment Tuesday of a new prime minister, there were no major protests. But a small rally at a government building Wednesday spoke to a fresh willingness to push publicly for reforms.
One day after Jordan's King Abdullah dismissed his cabinet and appointed a new prime minister to oversee political and economic reform, a few dozen protesters at a traffic circle near Amman's prime ministry building chanted “no Bakhit, no Samir,” in reference to the outgoing as well as the incoming leaders. The red flags of the leftist Popular Unity Party flew side-by-side with green Muslim Brotherhood flags.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
“We came here to make a message to our government, to the decisionmakers in Jordan, that we don't need changes in faces; we need changes in policies,” said Ghaith al-Qudah, who was organizing for the Brotherhood's Youth Committee.
Despite public skepticism about the new government, there were no large, organized protests like those that have shaken the capital on the past three Fridays. But the small gathering spoke to the fresh willingness of Jordanians to go public with their discontent – and how the recent revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia have changed the game for a generation.
“I think that there is now a new understanding inside the political kitchen that we have a new public mood in the region,” says Mohammad Aburumman, a political columnist for the Jordanian daily Al Ghad. “We have a new Arabic street … they need justice, political reform, democracy, human rights. … Political reform became a necessity in Jordan.”
King Abdullah appointed Prime Minister Maarouf al-Bakhit on Tuesday, after accepting the resignation of the previous cabinet of ministers. The first response to the appointment was doubt that Mr. Bakhit, a conservative with a long history in the military and security services, was really put in place to implement reform. Some held out hope that Bakhit's conservative credentials might actually make him a capable figure to head a reform government. Others said the change in prime ministers was a purely cosmetic move, in a country where political appointees change frequently but policies seldom do.
“People here are afraid that this [new government] is to contain the street, not to make a real change,” says Mr. Aburumman. He expects that by next week, Bakhit's ministerial appointments and his public statements will make clear how serious his government is about reform is. “We hope the new prime minister understands that he doesn't have a long time – he has a short time to give a very strong message towards democracy.”
The protesters outside the prime ministry were very critical of Bakhit, but no one interviewed actually called for his resignation.