February 1, 2011
Jordan’s monarchy has decided to fire the government and has moved to form a new one under the direction of an ex-army general, Marouf al-Bakhit.
King Abdullah II decided to take the move after thousands of Jordanians filled the streets to protest their hereditary rulers. The growing protests are inspired by events in Egypt and Tunisia where popular rebellion threatens the established order.
King Abdullah II is a key U.S. ally. He has come under pressure in recent weeks from protests by a coalition of Islamists, secular opposition groups and a group of retired army generals who have called for sweeping political and economic reforms.
Protesters demanded the resignation of former PM Samir Rifai and action on rising prices and unemployment. A palace statement by the king said Bakhit’s mission was “to take practical, quick and tangible steps to launch true political reforms, enhance Jordan’s democratic drive and ensure safe and decent living for all Jordanians.”
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
Leaders of the protests say the king has failed to take substantial steps to address mounting public resentment. They warn that unless genuine changes are made, the unrest could worsen.
The Muslim Brotherhood is Jordan’s largest opposition group. Last month it said its main demands were the dismissal of the government, the dissolution of parliament, and new elections. Many Jordanians criticized the election last November as fraudulent.
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was carved out of the former Ottoman empire by the British. The country was under British “supervision” until 1946 when the United Nations was petitioned to end the British Mandate and King Abdullah was appointed ruler.
Jordan is a modern police state. It has a history of persecuting activists and journalists. The country amended its penal code in July of 2010 and in August passed a Law of Information System Crimes, ostensibly to regulate the internet. Revised laws continue to criminalize peaceful expression and extend those provisions to internet expression.
In 2010, Jordanian authorities prosecuted peaceful dissidents and prohibited peaceful gatherings to protest government policies. Dissidents confined by the General Intelligence Department routinely sign confessions. According to a report by Amnesty International, intelligence agents in Jordan frequently use torture to extract confessions from suspects.
Jordan’s king sacks Cabinet amid street protests, Associated Press, February 1, 2011.
Jordan protests pressure king, but respect for monarchy remains, Ammon News, January 31, 2011.
Jordan protests: King Abdullah names Marouf Bakhit PM, BBC, February 1, 2011.
Jordan: Let Jordanians Speak Their Minds, Human Rights Watch, January 27, 2011.
Jordan: A Poetic Security Threat? Human Rights Watch, September 3, 2010.